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Ice-stream stability on a reverse bed slope

Jamieson, S.S.R.; Vieli, A.; Livingstone, S.J.; Ó Cofaigh, C.; Stokes, C.R.; Hillenbrand, C-D.; Dowdeswell, J.A.

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A. Vieli

S.J. Livingstone

C. Ó Cofaigh

C-D. Hillenbrand

J.A. Dowdeswell


Marine-based ice streams whose beds deepen inland are thought to be inherently unstable. This instability is of particular concern because significant portions of the marine-based West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are losing mass and their retreat could contribute significantly to future sea-level rise. However, the present understanding of ice-stream stability is limited by observational records that are too short to resolve multi-decadal to millennial-scale behaviour or to validate numerical models8. Here we present a dynamic numerical simulation of Antarctic ice-stream retreat since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), constrained by geophysical data, whose behaviour is consistent with the geomorphological record. We find that retreat of Marguerite Bay Ice Stream following the LGM was highly nonlinear and was interrupted by stabilizations on a reverse-sloping bed, where theory predicts rapid unstable retreat. We demonstrate that these transient stabilizations were caused by enhanced lateral drag as the ice stream narrowed. We conclude that, as well as bed topography, ice-stream width and long-term retreat history are crucial for understanding decadal- to centennial-scale ice-stream behaviour and marine ice-sheet vulnerability.


Jamieson, S., Vieli, A., Livingstone, S., Ó Cofaigh, C., Stokes, C., Hillenbrand, C., & Dowdeswell, J. (2012). Ice-stream stability on a reverse bed slope. Nature Geoscience, 5(11), 799-802.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Nov 1, 2012
Deposit Date Oct 16, 2012
Publicly Available Date Aug 14, 2015
Journal Nature Geoscience
Print ISSN 1752-0894
Electronic ISSN 1752-0908
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 11
Pages 799-802


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