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

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. 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. Here, using a validated ice-shelf model run in diagnostic mode, constrained by satellite and in situ geophysical data, we identify the nature of this potential instability. We demonstrate 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. When Larsen B’s stabilizing frontal portion was lost in 1995, the unstable remaining shelf accelerated, crumbled and ultimately collapsed. We hypothesize 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


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Authors: Kulessa, Bernd, Jansen, Daniela, Luckman, Adrian J., King, Edward C. ORCIDORCID record for Edward C. King, Sammonds, Peter R.

On this site: Ed King
22 April, 2014
Nature Communications / 5
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