Novel monitoring of Antarctic ice shelf basal melting using a fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing mooring

Scott Kobs, David M. Holland, Victor Zagorodnov, Alon Stern, Scott W. Tyler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Measuring basal melting of ice shelves is challenging and represents a critical component toward understanding ocean-ice interactions and climate change. In November 2011, moorings containing fiber-optic cables for distributed temperature sensing (DTS) were installed through the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica, (~200 m) and extending ~600 m into the ice shelf cavity. The high spatial resolution of DTS allows for transient monitoring of the thermal gradient within the ice shelf. The gradient near the ice-ocean interface is extrapolated to the in situ freezing temperature in order to continuously track the ice-ocean interface. Seasonal melt rates are calculated to be ~1.0 mm d-1 and 8.6 mm d-1, and maximum melting corresponds to the arrival of seasonal warm surface water in the ice shelf cavity between January and April. The development of continuous, surface-based techniques for measuring basal melting represents a significant advance in monitoring ice shelf stability and ice-ocean interactions. Key Points Antarctic fiber-optic moorings for distributed temperature sensingObservations of basal melting at the ice-ocean interfaceMeasurement of seasonal basal melting from distributed temperature sensing moorings

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6779-6786
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 16 2014



  • Antarctic
  • basal melting
  • distributed temperature sensing
  • glaciology
  • ice shelves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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