Bed Topography and Marine Ice-Sheet Stability

Publication Year


Journal Article

This paper examines the effect of basal topography and strength on the grounding-line position, flux and stability of rapidly-sliding ice streams. It does so by supposing that the buoyancy of the ice stream is small, and of the same order as the longitudinal stress gradient. Making this scaling assumption makes the role of the basal gradient and accumulation rate explicit in the lowest order expression for the ice flux at the grounding line and also provides the transcendental equation for the grounding-line position. It also introduces into the stability condition terms in the basal curvature and accumulation-rate gradient. These expressions revert to well-established expressions in circumstances in which the thickness gradient is large at the grounding line, a result which is shown to be the consequence of the non-linearity of the flow. The behaviour of the grounding-line flux is illustrated for a range of bed topographies and strengths. We show that, when bed topography at a horizontal scale of several tens of ice thicknesses is present, the grounding-line flux and stability have more complex dependencies on bed gradient than that associated with the ‘marine ice-sheet instability hypothesis’, and that unstable grounding-line positions can occur on prograde beds as well as stable positions on retrograde beds.

Journal of Glaciology
Date Published
February 2022
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