EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Ocean and atmospheric forcing of ice dynamic variability of west Antarctic Peninsula glaciers

Benjamin Wallis1, Anna Hogg1, J. Melchior van Wessem2, Benjamin Davison1, Michiel van den Broeke2, and Michael Meredith3
Benjamin Wallis et al.
  • 1Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (ICAS), University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom (
  • 2Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 3British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom

In Antarctica changes to ice dynamics dominate the ice sheet’s contribution to rising sea-levels. The Antarctic Peninsula (AP), has undergone the greatest atmospheric warming of any southern hemisphere terrestrial area in the 20th century. Over the last three decades, the AP has experienced significant change; floating ice shelves have collapsed and retreated, and the loss of ice shelf buttressing strength has led to an acceleration in ice speed and dynamic thinning of the grounded ice. On the west coast warming ocean water at depth has been linked to glacier terminus retreat, acceleration, and grounding line retreat.

In this study, we use feature tracking of Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery to measure ice speed of the Antarctic Peninsula’s west coast tidewater glaciers from 2014-2022 at 6-12 day temporal resolution.

Our results show widespread patterns of increased summertime ice speed over a study area of 105 tidewater glaciers. We observe average seasonal speed variability of 12.4 ± 4.2 %, with maximum speed change of 22.3 ± 3.2 % on glaciers with the most pronounced seasonality. We also measure ice dynamic changes on inter-annual timescales on the west AP coast in this period. We study one example, Cadman Glacier, in detail, which has increased speed by 1025 ± 83 m/yr (41.6%) from October 2018 to November 2019. This increased flow speed has been maintained until at least May 2022 causing terminus retreat, increased ice discharge, and dynamic thinning of grounded ice by 20.3 ± 2.1 m/yr.

We investigate forcing mechanisms which may cause the seasonal and long-term dynamic variability we observe using a regional climate model, ocean temperature reanalysis data and remote sensing observations of terminus position. We find that summertime speed increases may be explained by a combination of perennial firn aquifer modulated meltwater runoff and seasonal patterns of terminus position change, revealing that these glaciers can respond to forcings on seasonal timescales. For the longer-term speed change, we find that the large acceleration of Cadman glacier is coincident with a period of anomalously high ocean temperatures on the west AP shelf.

How to cite: Wallis, B., Hogg, A., van Wessem, J. M., Davison, B., van den Broeke, M., and Meredith, M.: Ocean and atmospheric forcing of ice dynamic variability of west Antarctic Peninsula glaciers, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-5472,, 2023.