Articles | Volume 10, issue 3
Research article
06 May 2014
Research article |  | 06 May 2014

Simulated melt rates for the Totten and Dalton ice shelves

D. E. Gwyther, B. K. Galton-Fenzi, J. R. Hunter, and J. L. Roberts

Abstract. The Totten Glacier is rapidly losing mass. It has been suggested that this mass loss is driven by changes in oceanic forcing; however, the details of the ice–ocean interaction are unknown. Here we present results from an ice shelf–ocean model of the region that includes the Totten, Dalton and Moscow University ice shelves, based on the Regional Oceanic Modeling System for the period 1992–2007. Simulated area-averaged basal melt rates (net basal mass loss) for the Totten and Dalton ice shelves are 9.1 m ice yr−1 (44.5 Gt ice yr−1) and 10.1 m ice yr−1 (46.6 Gt ice yr−1), respectively. The melting of the ice shelves varies strongly on seasonal and interannual timescales. Basal melting (mass loss) from the Totten ice shelf spans a range of 5.7 m ice yr−1 (28 Gt ice yr−1) on interannual timescales and 3.4 m ice yr−1 (17 Gt ice yr−1) on seasonal timescales.

This study links basal melt of the Totten and Dalton ice shelves to warm water intrusions across the continental shelf break and atmosphere–ocean heat exchange. Totten ice shelf melting is high when the nearby Dalton polynya interannual strength is below average, and vice versa. Melting of the Dalton ice shelf is primarily controlled by the strength of warm water intrusions across the Dalton rise and into the ice shelf cavity. During periods of strong westward coastal current flow, Dalton melt water flows directly under the Totten ice shelf further reducing melting. This is the first such modelling study of this region to provide a valuable framework for directing future observational and modelling efforts.