Complex network of channels beneath an Antarctic ice shelf



Ice shelves play an important role in stabilizing the interior grounded ice of the large ice sheets. The thinning of major ice shelves observed in recent years, possibly in connection to warmer ocean waters coming into contact with the ice-shelf base, has focused attention on the ice-ocean interface. Here we reveal a complex network of sub ice-shelf channels under the Fimbul Ice Shelf, Antarctica, mapped using ground-penetrating radar over a 100 km2 grid. The channels are 300–500 m wide and 50 m high, among the narrowest of any reported. Observing narrow channels beneath an ice shelf that is mainly surrounded by cold ocean waters, with temperatures close to the surface freezing point, shows that channelized basal melting is not restricted to rapidly melting ice shelves, indicating that spatial melt patterns around Antarctica are likely to vary on scales that are not yet incorporated in ice-ocean models.