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Antarctic ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice loss and ocean swell
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-19, 22:30 authored by Robert MassomRobert Massom, Scambos, TA, Bennetts, LG, Phillip ReidPhillip Reid, Squire, VA, Stammerjohn, SE
Understanding the causes of recent catastrophic ice shelf disintegrations is a crucial step towards improving coupled models of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and predicting its future state and contribution to sea-level rise. An overlooked climate-related causal factor is regional sea ice loss. Here we show that for the disintegration events observed (the collapse of the Larsen A and B and Wilkins ice shelves), the increased seasonal absence of a protective sea ice buffer enabled increased flexure of vulnerable outer ice shelf margins by ocean swells that probably weakened them to the point of calving. This outer-margin calving triggered wider-scale disintegration of ice shelves compromised by multiple factors in preceding years, with key prerequisites being extensive flooding and outer-margin fracturing. Wave-induced flexure is particularly effective in outermost ice shelf regions thinned by bottom crevassing. Our analysis of satellite and ocean-wave data and modelling of combined ice shelf, sea ice and wave properties highlights the need for ice sheet models to account for sea ice and ocean waves.
Department/SchoolInstitute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
PublisherNature Publishing Group
Place of publicationMacmillan Building, 4 Crinan St, London, England, N1 9Xw
Rights statementCopyright 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature