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A constitutive framework for predicting weakening and reduced buttressing of ice shelves based on observations of the progressive deterioration of the remnant Larsen B Ice Shelf

  • Author(s): Borstad, C;
  • Khazendar, A;
  • Scheuchl, B;
  • Morlighem, M;
  • Larour, E;
  • Rignot, E
  • et al.

The increasing contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to sea level rise is linked to reductions in ice shelf buttressing, driven in large part by basal melting of ice shelves. These ocean-driven buttressing losses are being compounded as ice shelves weaken and fracture. To date, model projections of ice sheet evolution have not accounted for weakening ice shelves. Here we present the first constitutive framework for ice deformation that explicitly includes mechanical weakening, based on observations of the progressive degradation of the remnant Larsen B Ice Shelf from 2000 to 2015. We implement this framework in an ice sheet model and are able to reproduce most of the observed weakening of the ice shelf. In addition to predicting ice shelf weakening and reduced buttressing, this new framework opens the door for improved understanding and predictions of iceberg calving, meltwater routing and hydrofracture, and ice shelf collapse.

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