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143517 - Coastal complexity of the Antarctic continent.pdf (9.27 MB)
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Coastal complexity of the Antarctic continent

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posted on 2023-05-20, 22:05 authored by Rick SmithRick Smith, McKinlay, J, Alexander FraserAlexander Fraser, Robert MassomRobert Massom
The Antarctic outer coastal margin (i.e., the coastline itself, or the terminus/front of ice shelves, whichever is adjacent to the ocean) is a key interface between the ice-sheet and terrestrial environments and the Southern Ocean. Its physical configuration (including both length scale of variation and orientation/aspect) has direct bearing on several closely associated cryospheric, biological, oceanographical and ecological processes, yet no study has quantified the coastal complexity or orientation of Antarctica’s coastal margin. This first-of-a-kind characterisation of Antarctic coastal complexity aims to address this knowledge gap. We quantify and investigate the physical configuration and complexity of Antarctica’s circumpolar outer coastal margin using a novel, technique based on ∼ 40,000 random points selected along a vector coastline derived from the MODIS Mosaic of Antarctica dataset. At each point, a complexity metric is calculated at length scales from 1 to 256 km, giving a multiscale estimate of the magnitude and direction of undulation or complexity at each point location along the entire coastline. Using a cluster analysis to determine characteristic complexity ‘signatures’ for random nodes, the coastline is found to comprise three basic groups or classes: (i) low complexity at all scales; (ii) most complexity at shorter scales; and (iii) most complexity at longer scales. These classes are somewhat heterogeneously distributed throughout the continent. We also consider bays and peninsulas separately and characterise their multi-scale orientation. This unique dataset and its summary analysis have numerous applications for both geophysical and biological studies and will contribute to Antarctic research requiring quantitative information on, and related to, coastal complexity and configuration. All these data are referenced by and are available free of charge at


Publication title

Earth System Science Data










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Copernicus GmbH

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright Author(s) 2020. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environments (excl. social impacts)

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