The ice dynamic response to climate warming is the largest source of uncertainty in projections of ice mass loss from key vulnerable catchments in Antarctica. One potential nonlinear ice dynamics response is ice flow piracy, where ice is channeled from one glacier or ice stream to a neighbouring glacier in response to ice surface elevation changes and interactions with the subglacial environment. A notable example of this occurred in the Siple Coast region of West Antarctica over 170 years ago, where flow piracy from the Kamb Ice Stream led to its shutdown, and the largest ongoing signature of ice mass gain in Antarctica.
Where else might flow piracy occur? We investigate the potential of ice flow piracy from Totten Glacier, the dominant outlet glacier of the Aurora Subglacial Basin, East Antarctica, to the neighbouring Vanderford Glacier. We demonstrate that minor changes in the ice surface elevation could induce flow piracy. This has significant implications for the timing of ice mass loss from this region, and future work will explore ice flow piracy using coupled ice sheet-subglacial hydrology modelling.