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Millennial-scale Vulnerability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to Regional Ice Shelf Collapse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue numberja
DatePublished - 3 Jul 2019


Abstract The Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) remains the largest uncertainty in projections of future sea level rise. A likely climate-driven vulnerability of the AIS is thinning of floating ice shelves resulting from surface-melt-driven hydrofracture or incursion of relatively warm water into subshelf ocean cavities. The resulting melting, weakening, and potential ice-shelf collapse reduces shelf buttressing effects. Upstream ice flow accelerates, causing thinning, grounding-line retreat, and potential ice sheet collapse. While high-resolution projections have been performed for localized Antarctic regions, full-continent simulations have typically been limited to low-resolution models. Here we quantify the vulnerability of the entire present-day AIS to regional ice-shelf collapse on millennial timescales treating relevant ice flow dynamics at the necessary ∼1km resolution. Collapse of any of the ice shelves dynamically connected to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is sufficient to trigger ice sheet collapse in marine-grounded portions of the WAIS. Vulnerability elsewhere appears limited to localized responses.

    Research areas

  • Sea Level Rise, Antarctic Ice sheet, Marine Ice Sheet Instability, Numerical Modeling

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