01 Dic 2022 15:00

Modeling ice stream dynamics: a tale of theory, numerical models, and observations

Sala Conferenze Orio-Zanetto, edificio ALFA - Campus Scientifico via Torino

Dott.ssa Elisa Mantelli, University of Tasmania, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

Ice streams are river-like corridors of fast flowing ice that account for the vast majority of ice discharge to the ocean in continental ice sheets. Their most outstanding feature is that they can appear spontaneously within a slowly moving ice sheet, self-organize in evenly spaced patterns, and switch on and off over time. Yet, a full explanation of ice stream formation and evolution is one of the longest standing open problems in glaciology. This knowledge gap has precluded fundamental investigations on the role of ice streams in driving ice sheet change, and also casts doubt on the ability of state-of-the-art ice sheet simulation codes to project future sea levels. In this talk, I strip away much of the sophistication involved in "operational" ice sheet models to look at the ingredients necessary to capture ice stream dynamics in minimal continuum models. I first identify fundamental flaws in the established theory of sliding initiation, to show instead how a region of subtemperate sliding (i.e.,  where sliding occurs below the melting point and sliding speeds are limited by the need to maintain the basal energy budget in balance) is essential to enable the onset of fast, sliding-dominated, ice stream flow. Next, I move on to outlining how ice streams may emerge spontaneously out of an otherwise uniform ice sheet as a result of a newly identified instability of subtemperate regions. Last, I discuss how the pattern of englacial deformation in the onset region of  the Institute Ice Stream (West Antarctica) is consistent with an extended region of sliding initiation, thus lending support to the theoretical findings discussed above. 

Bio Sketch:
Elisa Mantelli is a glaciologist working at the intersection of theory, numerical modelling, and observational studies. A fluid dynamicist by training, she obtained her PhD from Politecnico di Torino (Italy) in 2016. She pursued postdoctoral studies in North America at the University of British Columbia (2016), Stanford University (2017-2019), and Princeton University/GFDL's joint AOS Program (2019-2021). She has been serving on the faculty of the University of Tasmania as an Assist. Prof. in Ice Sheet Dynamics since August 2021.


L'evento si terrà in italiano


Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Informatica e Statistica - Alessio Rovere

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