Dr. Karen Alley
Geology Department | The College of Wooster, Ohio
Ice shelves, the floating extensions of ice sheets, are responsible for regulating the flow of ice into the ocean along about three-quarters of the Antarctic coastline. Any ice shelf loss leads to land-ice acceleration, increasing rates of sea level rise. Because of this control on ice dynamics, scientists cannot predict future rates of sea level rise without understanding the future evolution of ice shelves. This talk will include discussion of two pan-Antarctic studies of ice shelf stability. The first examines the de stabilizing effects of atmospheric melting, offering an assessment of ice shelf risk to surface-melt-induced collapse derived from active microwave satellite data. The second examines in detail an important aspect of oceanic melting: the formation of large channels on the bases of ice shelves, which grow and change under the influence of warm ocean water, and can cause small-scale fracture. These two studies are small pieces in the very large puzzle that the scientific community is slowly putting together, revealing the future of Antarctic ice shelves and sea level rise one piece at a time.