Stability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet during the pre-industrial Holocene

The rate and magnitude of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) contribution to global sea-level rise beyond 2100 CE remains highly uncertain. Past changes of the AIS, however, offer opportunities to understand contemporary and future ice sheet behaviour. In this Review, we outline how the AIS evolved through the pre-Industrial Holocene, 11,700 years ago to 1850 CE. Three main phases of ice sheet behaviour are identified: a period of rapid ice volume loss across all sectors in the Early and Mid Holocene; a retreat inland of the present-day ice sheet margin in some sectors, followed by readvance; and continued ice volume loss in several sectors during the past few millennia, and in some areas up to and into the Industrial era. Global sea levels rose by 2.4–12 m owing to the period of rapid Antarctic ice loss, and possibly fell by 0.35–1.2 m owing to subsequent readvance. Changes in the AIS during the Holocene were likely driven by similar processes to those acting today and predicted for the future, which are associated with oceanic and atmospheric conditions as well as bed topography. Further work is required to better understand these processes, and to quantify Antarctica’s contribution to past sea-level change.


Publication status:
Authors: Jones, Richard S., Johnson, Joanne S. ORCIDORCID record for Joanne S. Johnson, Lin, Yucheng, Mackintosh, Andrew N., Sefton, Juliet P., Smith, James A. ORCIDORCID record for James A. Smith, Thomas, Elizabeth R. ORCIDORCID record for Elizabeth R. Thomas, Whitehouse, Pippa L.

On this site: James Smith, Joanne Johnson, Liz Thomas
1 August, 2022
Nature Reviews Earth & Environment / 3
16pp / 500-515
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