A Caltech Library Service

Marine ice-sheet profiles and stability under Coulomb basal conditions

Tsai, Victor C. and Stewart, Andrew L. and Thompson, Andrew F. (2015) Marine ice-sheet profiles and stability under Coulomb basal conditions. Journal of Glaciology, 61 (226). pp. 205-215. ISSN 0022-1430. doi:10.3189/2015JoG14J221.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The behavior of marine-terminating ice sheets, such as the West Antarctic ice sheet, is of interest due to the possibility of rapid grounding-line retreat and consequent catastrophic loss of ice. Critical to modeling this behavior is a choice of basal rheology, where the most popular approach is to relate the ice-sheet velocity to a power-law function of basal stress. Recent experiments, however, suggest that near-grounding line tills exhibit Coulomb friction behavior. Here we address how Coulomb conditions modify ice-sheet profiles and stability criteria. The basal rheology necessarily transitions to Coulomb friction near the grounding line, due to low effective stresses, leading to changes in ice-sheet properties within a narrow boundary layer. Ice-sheet profiles ‘taper off’ towards a flatter upper surface, compared with the power-law case, and basal stresses vanish at the grounding line, consistent with observations. In the Coulomb case, the grounding-line ice flux also depends more strongly on flotation ice thickness, which implies that ice sheets are more sensitive to climate perturbations. Furthermore, with Coulomb friction, the ice sheet grounds stably in shallower water than with a power-law rheology. This implies that smaller perturbations are required to push the grounding line into regions of negative bed slope, where it would become unstable. These results have important implications for ice-sheet stability in a warming climate.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Tsai, Victor C.0000-0003-1809-6672
Stewart, Andrew L.0000-0001-5861-4070
Thompson, Andrew F.0000-0003-0322-4811
Additional Information:© 2015 IGS. MS received 17 November 2014 and accepted in revised form 14 February 2015. We thank G.H. Gudmundsson for useful discussions, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and funded through the President’s and Director’s Fund Program. Partial support was also provided by the Stanback Discovery Fund for Global Environmental Science.
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
JPL President's and Director's Fund ProgramUNSPECIFIED
Stanback Discovery Fund for Global Environmental ScienceUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Antarctic glaciology, glacial rheology, glacier mechanics, glacier modelling, ice-sheet modelling
Issue or Number:226
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150311-105436730
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:55701
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Mar 2015 18:36
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:49

Repository Staff Only: item control page