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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters



  • Pine Island Glacier
  • Subgacial erosion

Index Terms

  • 0720 - Glaciers
  • 0730 - Ice streams
  • 0920 - Gravity methods
  • 0935 - Seismic methods
  • 9310 - Antarctica

Paper in Press


Rapid subglacial erosion beneath Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica

Key Points
  • Rapid erosion at one location beneath Pine Island Glacier
  • Present-day erosion rate of 1 metre per year is possible
  • Subglacial erosion can be a significant component of surface lowering


Andrew Mark Smith

Charles R. Bentley

Robert G. Bingham

Tom H. Jordan

We present measurements of ice thickness, gravimetry and surface elevation on Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, separated by a period of 49 years. At one station, on the main trunk of the glacier we measured a surface elevation lowering with no significant change in ice thickness. We interpret these as indicating subglacial erosion of 31.8 {plus minus} 13.4 m at this location, at a mean rate over the measurement period of 0.6 {plus minus} 0.3 m a-1, and suggest that a current erosion rate of ~1 m a-1 is possible. Our results emphasize that locally, basal processes can have a significant effect on ice sheet changes, particularly where fast-flowing ice has an easily erodible bed.

Received 16 March 2012; accepted 28 May 2012.

Citation: Smith, A. M., C. R. Bentley, R. G. Bingham, and T. H. Jordan (2012), Rapid subglacial erosion beneath Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL051651, in press.