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Thermal control of ice-stream marginsThe thermal balance at the base of an ice sheet near an ice-stream margin was investigated theoretically. Specifically, conditions such that the base of the ice sheet would be frozen in the absence of heat generated by the ice motion were investigated. The base of the ice stream is maintained at melting as a result of high dissipation of heat at the base associated with its fast motion over the bed. Heat dissipation in the inter-ice-stream ridge ice is presumed to be too small to maintain melting conditions on the bed there. Two opposing effects can be identified near the shear margin separating the fast and slow motions. Because the velocity of an ice stream falls off toward its margin, there is a near margin heat deficit zone where the heat generated at the bed is not, by itself, sufficient to maintain melting conditions. Without some counteracting process, the base could freeze inward toward the ice stream and cause it to narrow. The marginal shearing generates heat within the ice above the bed. This heat produces a thermal shielding effect that tends to warm the bed on both sides of the boundary between the fast and slow motion. This shielding effect, if strong enough, could produce a thawed zone beyond the fast/slow boundary. If melting at the bed by itself allows fast motion, then the ice stream would be free to widen. A coupled mass and heat flow model is being developed to examine these competing processes. Preliminary calculations using available information for boundary conditions appropriate for Ice Stream B predict that the shielding effect is most important. This tentative result suggests that thermal conditions are such that the ice stream could widen unstably. Other constraints would be required to stabilize the width. Possible factors could be bed morphology beneath ridges that does not allow fast motion even in thawed conditions, or inward advection of cold ice from the ridges across the margin and into the ice stream, which suppresses the shielding effect. The unknown geothermal heat flow beneath ice streams and inter ice-stream ridges is a major uncertainty in doing these calculations.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Raymond, Charles F.
(Washington Univ. Seattle, WA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
July 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Goddard Space Flight Center, The First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19930022689Analytic PrimaryThe First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
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