Instruments and methods using distributed temperature sensors to monitor an Antarctic ice shelf and sub-ice-shelf cavity

S. W. Tyler, D. M. Holland, V. Zagorodnov, A. A. Stern, C. Sladek, S. Kobs, S. White, F. Suárez, J. Bryenton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Monitoring of ice-shelf and sub-ice-shelf ocean temperatures represents an important component in understanding ice-sheet stability. Continuous monitoring is challenging due to difficult surface access, difficulties in penetrating the ice shelf, and the need for long-term operation of nonrecoverable sensors. We aim to develop rapid lightweight drilling and near-continuous fiber-optic temperature-monitoring methods to meet these challenges. During November 2011, two instrumented moorings were installed within and below the McMurdo Ice Shelf (a sub-region of the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica) at Windless Bight. We used a combination of ice coring for the upper portion of each shelf borehole and hot-point drilling for penetration into the ocean. The boreholes provided temporary access to the ice-shelf cavity, into which distributed temperature sensing (DTS) fiber-optic cables and conventional pressure/temperature transducers were installed. The DTS moorings provided nearcontinuous (in time and depth) observations of ice and ocean temperatures to a depth of almost 800m beneath the ice-shelf surface. Data received document the presence of near-freezing water throughout the cavity from November through January, followed by an influx of warmer water reaching -150m beneath the ice-shelf base during February and March. The observations demonstrate prospects for achieving much higher spatial sampling of temperature than more conventional oceanographic moorings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-591
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number215
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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