Sea level rise from West Antarctic mass loss significantly modified by large snowfall anomalies

Mass loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is dominated by glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE), yet the impact of anomalous precipitation on the mass balance of the ASE is poorly known. Here we present a 25-year (1996–2021) record of ASE input-output mass balance and evaluate how two periods of anomalous precipitation affected its sea level contribution. Since 1996, the ASE has lost 3331 ± 424 Gt ice, contributing 9.2 ± 1.2 mm to global sea level. Overall, surface mass balance anomalies contributed little (7.7%) to total mass loss; however, two anomalous precipitation events had larger, albeit short-lived, impacts on rates of mass change. During 2009–2013, persistently low snowfall led to an additional 51 ± 4 Gt yr−1 mass loss in those years (contributing positively to the total loss of 195 ± 4 Gt yr−1). Contrastingly, extreme precipitation in the winters of 2019 and 2020 decreased mass loss by 60 ± 16 Gt yr−1 during those years (contributing negatively to the total loss of 107 ± 15 Gt yr−1). These results emphasise the important impact of extreme snowfall variability on the short-term sea level contribution from West Antarctica.


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Authors: Davison, Benjamin J., Hogg, Anna E., Rigby, Richard, Veldhuijsen, Sanne, van Wessem, Jan Melchior, van den Broeke, Michiel R., Holland, Paul R. ORCIDORCID record for Paul R. Holland, Selley, Heather L., Dutrieux, Pierre ORCIDORCID record for Pierre Dutrieux

On this site: Paul Holland, Pierre Dutrieux
17 March, 2023
Nature Communications / 14
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