Observation and Parameterization of Ablation at the Base of Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Adrian Jenkins*, Keith W. Nicholls, Hugh F. J. Corr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Parameterizations of turbulent transfer through the oceanic boundary layer beneath an ice shelf are tested using direct measurements of basal ablation. Observations were made in the southwestern part of Ronne Ice Shelf, about 500 km from open water. The mean basal ablation rate was measured over a month-long and a year-long period using phase-sensitive radar to record the thinning of the ice shelf. Ocean temperatures were observed within about 25 m of the ice shelf base over the period of the radar observations, while the tidally dominated ocean currents were estimated from tidal analysis of collocated current observations from an earlier period. Ablation rates derived using these ocean data and a number of bulk parameterizations of turbulent transfer within the boundary layer are compared with the direct measurements. The ablation rates derived using a parameterization that explicitly includes the impact of ocean currents on the turbulent transfer of heat and salt match the observations to within 40%; with suitable tuning of the drag coefficient, the mismatch can be reduced below the level of the observational errors. Equally good agreement can be obtained with two slightly simpler, current-dependent parameterizations that use constant turbulent transfer coefficients, and the optimal values for the coefficients at this particular location on Ronne Ice Shelf are given.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2298–2312
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Oceanography
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


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