Catalogue | Flanders Marine Institute

Flanders Marine Institute

Platform for marine research


This search interface gives access to the reference database of VLIZ, an extensive collection of (inter)national marine scientific literature references.

You can limit your search to the Belgian marine literature only or to the VLIZ Library catalogue only by checking the 'VLIZ Library' box.

New search
[ report an error in this record ]basket (0): add | show Printer-friendly version

Antarctic ice shelf potentially stabilized by export of meltwater in surface river
Bell, R.E.; Chu, W.; Kingslake, J.; Das, I.; Tedesco, M.; Tinto, K.J.; Zappa, C.J.; Frezzotti, M.; Boghosian, A.; Lee, W.S. (2017). Antarctic ice shelf potentially stabilized by export of meltwater in surface river. Nature (Lond.) 544(7650): 344-348.
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Authors  Top 
  • Bell, R.E.
  • Chu, W.
  • Kingslake, J.
  • Das, I.
  • Tedesco, M.
  • Tinto, K.J.
  • Zappa, C.J.
  • Frezzotti, M.
  • Boghosian, A.
  • Lee, W.S.

    Meltwater stored in ponds and crevasses can weaken and fracture ice shelves, triggering their rapid disintegration. This ice-shelf collapse results in an increased flux of ice from adjacent glaciers and ice streams, thereby raising sea level globally. However, surface rivers forming on ice shelves could potentially export stored meltwater and prevent its destructive effects. Here we present evidence for persistent active drainage networks—interconnected streams, ponds and rivers—on the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica that export a large fraction of the ice shelf’s meltwater into the ocean. We find that active drainage has exported water off the ice surface through waterfalls and dolines for more than a century. The surface river terminates in a 130-metre-wide waterfall that can export the entire annual surface melt over the course of seven days. During warmer melt seasons, these drainage networks adapt to changing environmental conditions by remaining active for longer and exporting more water. Similar networks are present on the ice shelf in front of Petermann Glacier, Greenland, but other systems, such as on the Larsen C and Amery Ice Shelves, retain surface water at present. The underlying reasons for export versus retention remain unclear. Nonetheless our results suggest that, in a future warming climate, surface rivers could export melt off the large ice shelves surrounding Antarctica—contrary to present Antarctic ice-sheet models1, which assume that meltwater is stored on the ice surface where it triggers ice-shelf disintegration.

All data in IMIS is subject to the VLIZ privacy policy Top | Authors