May 22, 2016

Four-decade record of pervasive grounding line retreat along the Bellingshausen margin of West Antarctica

Christie, Frazer D.W., Bingham, Robert G., Gourmelen, Noel, Tett, Simon F.B., Muto, Atsuhiro
Geophysical Research Letters

“I think this study just underscores that West Antarctica, in general, is not only exceptionally vulnerable to retreat triggered by ocean melting at the coastline, but that it is happening now and it is showing no sign of slowing down...This whole process is pretty pervasive.”

Study co-author Robert Bingham of the University of Edinburgh

  • Uses Landsat imagery to monitor grounding line movement over four decades along the Bellingshausen margin of West Antarctica, an area little monitored despite potential for future ice losses
  • Shows that ~65% of the grounding line retreated from 1990-2015, with pervasive and accelerating retreat in regions of fast ice flow and/or thinning ice shelves
  • Finds that the Venable Ice Shelf confounds expectations in that despite extensive thinning, its grounding line has undergone negligible retreat
  • Presents evidence that the ice shelf is currently pinned to a sub-ice topographic high which, if breached, could facilitate ice retreat into a significant inland basin, analogous to nearby Pine Island Glacier