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Atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica

Turner, John; Orr, Andrew; Gudmundsson, G. Hilmar; Jenkins, Adrian; Bingham, Robert G.; Hillenbrand, Claus-Dieter; Bracegirdle, Thomas J.. 2017 Atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica. Reviews of Geophysics, 55 (1). 235-276. 10.1002/2016RG000532

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Abstract/Summary

Over recent decades outlet glaciers of the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE), West Antarctica, have accelerated, thinned and retreated, and are now contributing approximately 10% to global sea level rise. All the ASE glaciers flow into ice shelves, and it is the thinning of these since the 1970s, and their ungrounding from “pinning points” that is widely held to be responsible for triggering the glaciers’ decline. These changes have been linked to the inflow of warm Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) onto the ASE's continental shelf. CDW delivery is highly variable, and is closely related to the regional atmospheric circulation. The ASE is south of the Amundsen Sea Low (ASL), which has a large variability and which has deepened in recent decades. The ASL is influenced by the phase of the Southern Annular Mode, along with tropical climate variability. It is not currently possible to simulate such complex atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions in models, hampering prediction of future change. The current retreat could mark the beginning of an unstable phase of the ASE glaciers that, if continued, will result in collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but numerical ice-sheet models currently lack the predictive power to answer this question. It is equally possible that the recent retreat will be short-lived and that the ASE will find a new stable state. Progress is hindered by incomplete knowledge of bed topography in the vicinity of the grounding line. Furthermore, a number of key processes are still missing or poorly represented in models of ice-flow.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1002/2016RG000532
Programmes: BAS Programmes > BAS Programmes 2015 > Atmosphere, Ice and Climate
BAS Programmes > BAS Programmes 2015 > Ice Dynamics and Palaeoclimate
BAS Programmes > BAS Programmes 2015 > Polar Oceans
ISSN: 87551209
Additional Keywords: Pine Island Glacier, Circumpolar Deep Water, ice shelves, mass balance
Date made live: 14 Mar 2017 08:52 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/516501

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