Antarctic Ice Shelves Lose Most of Their Mass From Shallow Depths

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Ole Richter, Benjamin K. Galton-Fenzi, David Gwyther, Kaitlin Naughten, Matt King


Understanding the processes involved in basal melting of Antarctic ice shelves is important to quantify the rate at which Antarctica will lose mass. Current research of of ice shelf-ocean interaction is almost exclusively guided by satellite derived estimates of Antarctic-wide ice shelf melting, which highlight deep warm water intrusions and melting along ice shelf grounding lines. Here we analyse an estimate of Antarctic ice shelf melting derived from state-of-the-art ocean modelling. The model suggest that 79 % (954 Gt/yr) of the total mass loss comes from ice shallower than 400 m deep. Melting at depths shallower than 200 m contributes 33 % (399 Gt/yr) of the total mass loss and triples in summer, when solar heated surface waters advect under the ice. Thus, research should not just focus on deep warm water intrusions, but also the processes that control surface water advection and melting at shallow depths.



Earth Sciences, Glaciology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Antarctica, basal melting, ice shelf, mass loss


Published: 2020-06-18 20:34


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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