Weak relationship between remotely detected crevasses and inferred ice rheological parameters on Antarctic ice shelves

Cristina Gerli*, Sebastian Rosier, G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, Sainan Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

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Over the past decade, a wealth of research has been devoted to the detection of crevasses in glaciers and ice sheets via remote sensing and machine learning techniques. It is often argued that remotely sensed damage maps can function as early warning signals for shifts in ice shelf conditions from intact to damaged states and can serve as an important tool for ice sheet modellers to improve future sea level rise predictions. Here, we provide evidence for the Filchner–Ronne and Pine Island ice shelves that remotely sensed damage maps are only weakly related to the ice rate factor field A derived by an ice flow model when inverting for surface velocities. This technique is a common procedure in ice flow models, as it guarantees that any inferred changes in A relate to changes in ice flow measured through observations. The weak relationship found is improved when investigating heavily damaged shear margins, as observed on the Pine Island Ice Shelf; however, even in this setting, this association remains modest. Our findings suggest that many features identified as damage through remote sensing methods are not of direct relevance to present-day ice shelf flow. While damage can clearly play an important role in ice shelf processes and thus be relevant for ice sheet behaviour and sea level rise projections, our results imply that mapping ice damage directly from satellite observations may not directly help improve the representation of these processes in ice flow models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2677-2689
Number of pages13
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2024

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