Implications of the break-up of Wordie Ice Shelf, Antarctica for sea level

Temperature records in the Antarctic Peninsula have shown a climatic warming of 1.5°C over the past 30 years and a number of ice shelves have retreated. The most dramatic retreat has been that of Wordie Ice Shelf which has undergone a catastrophic disintegration since the 1960s. Understanding the cause and mechanism of the break-up may provide important clues to the fate of ice shelves farther south which, it has been suggested, help to stabilize the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The break-up of Wordie Ice Shelf has been analysed using Landsat and SPOT imagery. These observations show that the relative contribution of the various input glaciers to the grounding line flux has not altered during the break-up. This means that the effect of the rapid and almost complete removal of the ice shelf has not been transmitted upstream and is not causing a rapid increase in velocities on the input glaciers. The volume of grounded ice in the catchment of Wordie Ice Shelf will thus, be largely unaffected by the break-up and there will be no significant contribution to sea level change. Since other ice shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula are also fed by relatively steep mountain glaciers the effect of the loss of the ice shelves on sea level would be likely to be similarly small


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Authors: Vaughan, David G. ORCIDORCID record for David G. Vaughan

On this site: David Vaughan
1 December, 1993
Antarctic Science / 5
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