Observed vulnerability of Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf to wind-driven inflow of warm deep water
The average rate of melting at the base of the large Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in the southern Weddell Sea is currently low, but projected to increase dramatically within the next century. In a model study, melt rates increase as changing ice conditions cause a redirection of a coastal current, bringing warm water of open ocean origin through the Filchner Depression and into the Filchner Ice Shelf cavity. Here we present observations from near Filchner Ice Shelf and from the Filchner Depression, which show that pulses of warm water already arrive as far south as the ice front. This southward heat transport follows the eastern flank of the Filchner Depression and is found to be directly linked to the strength of a wind-driven coastal current. Our observations emphasize the potential sensitivity of Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf melt rates to changes in wind forcing.