Apr 22, 2014

Marine ice regulates the future stability of a large Antarctic ice shelf

Bernd Kulessa, Daniela Jansen, Adrian J. Luckman, Edward C. King, Peter R. Sammonds
Nature Communications
  • States that the collapses of the Larsen A and B ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1995 and 2002 confirm the impact of southward-propagating climate warming in this region
  • States that recent mass and dynamic changes of Larsen B’s southern neighbour Larsen C, the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica, may herald a similar instability
  • Uses a validated ice-shelf model run in diagnostic mode, constrained by satellite and in situ geophysical data
  • Identifies the nature of this potential instability
  • Demonstrates that the present-day spatial distribution and orientation of the principal stresses within Larsen C ice shelf are akin to those within pre-collapse Larsen B
  • Finds that when Larsen B’s stabilizing frontal portion was lost in 1995, the unstable remaining shelf accelerated, crumbled and ultimately collapsed
  • Hypothesizes that Larsen C ice shelf may suffer a similar fate if it were not stabilized by warm and mechanically soft marine ice, entrained within narrow suture zones