We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Miles, B.W.J., Stokes, C.R. & Jamieson, S.S.R Simultaneous disintegration of outlet glaciers in Porpoise Bay (Wilkes Land), East Antarctica, driven by sea ice break-up. The Cryosphere. 2017;11:427-442.

Author(s) from Durham


The floating ice shelves and glacier tongues which fringe the Antarctic continent are important because they help buttress ice flow from the ice sheet interior. Dynamic feedbacks associated with glacier calving have the potential to reduce buttressing and subsequently increase ice flow into the ocean. However, there are few high temporal resolution studies on glacier calving, especially in East Antarctica. Here we use remote sensing to investigate monthly glacier terminus change across six marine-terminating outlet glaciers in Porpoise Bay (−76° S, 128° E), Wilkes Land (East Antarctica), between November 2002 and March 2012. This reveals a large simultaneous calving event in January 2007, resulting in a total of ~ 2900 km2 of ice being removed from glacier tongues. Our observations suggest that sea-ice must be removed from glacier termini for any form of calving to take place, and we link this major calving event to a rapid break-up of the multi-year sea-ice which usually occupies Porpoise Bay. Using sea-ice concentrations as a proxy for glacier calving, and by analysing available satellite imagery stretching back to 1963, we reconstruct the long-term calving activity of the largest glacier in Porpoise Bay: Holmes (West) Glacier. This reveals that its present-day velocity (~ 1450 m a−1) is approximately 50 % faster than between 1963 and 1973 (~ 900 m a−1). We also observed the start of a large calving event in Porpoise Bay in March 2016 that is consistent with our reconstructions of the periodicity of major calving events. These results highlight the importance of sea-ice in modulating outlet glacier calving and velocity in East Antarctica.


Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.

Department of Geography