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Antarctic ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice loss and ocean swell
Massom, R.A.; Scambos, T.A.; Bennetts, L.G.; Reid, P.; Squire, V.A.; Stammerjohn, S.E. (2018). Antarctic ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice loss and ocean swell. Nature (Lond.) 558(7710): 383-389.
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836; e-ISSN 1476-4687, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Massom, R.A.
  • Scambos, T.A.
  • Bennetts, L.G.
  • Reid, P.
  • Squire, V.A.
  • Stammerjohn, S.E.

    Understanding the causes of recent catastrophic ice shelf disintegrations is a crucial step towards improving coupled models of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and predicting its future state and contribution to sea-level rise. An overlooked climaterelated causal factor is regional sea ice loss. Here we show that for the disintegration events observed (the collapse of the Larsen A and B and Wilkins ice shelves), the increased seasonal absence of a protective sea ice buffer enabled increased flexure of vulnerable outer ice shelf margins by ocean swells that probably weakened them to the point of calving. This outer-margin calving triggered wider-scale disintegration of ice shelves compromised by multiple factors in preceding years, with key prerequisites being extensive flooding and outer-margin fracturing. Wave-induced flexure is particularly effective in outermost ice shelf regions thinned by bottom crevassing. Our analysis of satellite and ocean-wave data and modelling of combined ice shelf, sea ice and wave properties highlights the need for ice sheet models to account for sea ice and ocean waves.

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