Dec 16, 2016

Ocean heat drives rapid basal melt of the Totten Ice Shelf

Stephen Rich Rintoul, Alessandro Silvano, Beatriz Pena-Molino, Esmee van Wijk, Mark Rosenberg, Jamin Stevens Greenbaum, Donald D. Blankenship
Science Advances
  • States that mass loss from the West Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers has been linked to basal melt by ocean heat flux
  • States that the Totten Ice Shelf in East Antarctica, which buttresses a marine-based ice sheet with a volume equivalent to at least 3.5 m of global sea-level rise, also experiences rapid basal melt, but the role of ocean forcing was not known because of a lack of observations near the ice shelf
  • Observations from the Totten calving front confirm that (0.22 ± 0.07) × 106 m3 s−1 of warm water enters the cavity through a newly discovered deep channel
  • Finds that the ocean heat transport into the cavity is sufficient to support the large basal melt rates inferred from glaciological observations
  • Concludes that change in ocean heat flux is a plausible physical mechanism to explain past and projected changes in this sector of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution to sea level