Last updated October 10, 2018

Ocean forcing of glacier retreat in the western Antarctic Peninsula

  • States that in recent decades, hundreds of glaciers draining the Antarctic Peninsula (63° to 70°S) have undergone systematic and progressive change
  • States these changes are widely attributed to rapid increases in regional surface air temperature, but it is now clear that this cannot be the sole driver
  • Identifies a strong correspondence between mid-depth ocean temperatures and glacier-front changes along the ~1000-kilometer western coastline
  • Finds in the south, glaciers that terminate in warm Circumpolar Deep Water have undergone considerable retreat, whereas those in the far northwest, which terminate in cooler waters, have not
  • Finds, furthermore, a mid-ocean warming since the 1990s in the south is coincident with widespread acceleration of glacier retreat
  • Concludes that changes in ocean-induced melting are the primary cause of retreat for glaciers in this region