EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Relating changes in seabed properties and retreating glacier fronts in West-Antarctic fjords.

Katrien Van Landeghem1, Kate Retallick1, Floyd Howard, Dave Barnes2, Stuart Jenkins1, Chester Sands2, Carlos Muñoz-Ramirez3, and James Scourse4
Katrien Van Landeghem et al.
  • 1Bangor University, School of Ocean Sciences, Menai Bridge LL59 5AB, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 3U. Catolica de la Ssma Concepcion, Facultad de Ciencias, Alonso de Rivera 2850, Concepcion, Chile
  • 4University of Exeter, Centre for Geography and Environmental Science, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (

Retreating marine terminating glaciers influence the rate at which larger ice mass is lost, and thus the rate at which global sea levels rise. About 90% of the circa 240 glaciers terminating in fjords along the West-Antarctic Peninsula coastline are retreating. This happens at variable rates as these fjords have internal feedback mechanisms with e.g. the oceanographic make-up of the bay and the geology / geomorphology of the local hinterland. The NERC-CONICYT funded “ICEBERGS” project is a UK-Chile research collaboration to assess the effects of ice loss and deglaciation on benthic marine ecosystems in Antarctica. Three West-Antarctic fjords where glaciers have been consistently retreating in the last few decades were investigated: Marian Cove (King George Island), Börgen Bay (Anvers Island) and Ryder Bay (Adelaide Island). As part of this project, we monitored the changes in seabed bathymetry and backscatter intensity as a signature of past and on-going ice flow and ice retreat. Together with sediment analyses, the data provide insights in glacial landscape development and on sediment accumulation / seabed erosion rates. We also managed to insonify parts of the changing glacier ice fronts, detailing the grounding zones at the seabed. At the time of abstract submission, the third of three surveys was just underway. In this presentation we will explore the preliminary search for spatial and temporal relationships between grounded ice advance and retreat, undercutting of the grounded glacier terminus, sediment discharge, ice berg scouring, glacial landscape development and mass waste deposits. Our direct time-lapse observations of the seabed and glacier fronts of different fjord systems will help us understand how the local fjord environments define the dynamics of the retreating glaciers they host, whilst the results help elucidate the impact of that deglaciation on the newly emerged seabed and the fast-growing ecosystem it supports. Understanding the ice-filled fjord dynamics in the present-day and in the recent past will also help interpretations made from data representing these environments in the distant past.

How to cite: Van Landeghem, K., Retallick, K., Howard, F., Barnes, D., Jenkins, S., Sands, C., Muñoz-Ramirez, C., and Scourse, J.: Relating changes in seabed properties and retreating glacier fronts in West-Antarctic fjords., EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7943,, 2020


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