A new Antarctic Peninsula glacier basin inventory and observed area changes since the 1940s

Glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have recently shown changes in extent, velocity and thickness, yet there is little quantification of change in the mass balance of individual glaciers or the processes controlling changes in extent. Here a high-resolution digital elevation model and a semi-automated drainage basin delineation method have been used to define glacier systems between 63°S–70°S on the mainland and surrounding islands, resulting in an inventory of 1590 glacier basins. Of these, 860 are marine-terminating glaciers whose ice fronts can be defined at specific epochs since the 1940s. These ice front positions were digitized up to 2010 and the areas for all individual glacier basins were calculated.Glaciological characteristics, such as geometry, slope and altitudes, were attributed to each glacier, thus providing a new resource for glacier morphological analyses. Our results indicate that 90% of the 860 glaciers have reduced in area since the earliest recorded date. A north–south gradient of increasing ice loss is clear, as is distinct behaviour on the east and west coasts. The area lost varies considerably between glacier types, with correlations apparent with glacier shape, slope and frontal-type. Temporal trends indicate a uniform retreat since the 1970s, with a period of small re-advance in the late 1990s.


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Authors: Cook, A.J., Vaughan, D.G. ORCIDORCID record for D.G. Vaughan, Luckman, A.J., Murray, T.

On this site: David Vaughan
1 December, 2014
Antarctic Science / 26
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