The impact of subglacial hydrology on force balance for a physically modeled ice stream
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We use a physical model to investigate how changes in the distribution of subglacial hydrology affect ice motion of Antarctic ice streams. Ice streams are modeled using silicone polymer placed over a thin water layer to mimic ice flow dominated by basal sliding. Dynamic similarity between modeled and natural ice streams is achieved through direct comparison of the model force balance and the observed force balance of Whillans Ice Stream (WIS). The WIS force balance has evolved over time due to increased basal resistance. We test two hypotheses: 1) the subglacial water distribution influences the ice flow speed and thus the force balance and; 2) shear margins are locations where transitions in water layer thickness occur. The velocity and force balance are sensitive to pulsed water discharge events and changes in lubrication associated with sticky spots, and model shear margins tend to overlie water lubrication boundaries. Local changes in basal lubrication near margins (possibly as a result of the presence of sticky spots or subglacial lakes) influences the stability of the margin position and may be responsible for large and rapid shifts in margin location.