Recent trends in melting conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula and their implications for ice-sheet mass balance and sea level

Vaughan, David G. ORCID: 2006 Recent trends in melting conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula and their implications for ice-sheet mass balance and sea level. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 38 (1). 147-152.[0147:RTIMCO]2.0.CO;2

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Long-term records from meteorological stations on the Antarctic Peninsula show strong rising trends in the annual duration of melting conditions. In each case, the trend is statistically significant and represents a major increase in the potential for melting; for example, between 1950 and 2000 the record from Faraday/Vernadsky Station showed a 74% increase in the number of positive degree-days (PDDs). A simple parameterization of the likely effects of the warming on the rate of snow melt suggests an increase across the Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet from 28 ± 12 Gt a–1 in 1950, to 54 ± 26 Gt a–1 by 2000. Given a similar rate of warming over the next 50 years this may reach 100 ± 46 Gt a–1. The majority of this increased meltwater does not drain into the sea but is refrozen in the ice sheet, and it is difficult to predict the fraction of ablation that will become runoff; however, a calculation based on an established criterion for runoff indicates that the contribution from the Antarctic Peninsula, as a direct and immediate response to climate warming is significant, equivalent to (0.008–0.055) mm a–1 of global sea level rise. Given future warming this could easily treble in the coming 50 years. This contribution due to increased runoff could be augmented by any dynamic imbalance in the glaciers draining the ice sheet. This finding appears to contradict the conclusions of previous assessments, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which considered the contribution of runoff from Antarctica to sea level rise would be insignificant.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):[0147:RTIMCO]2.0.CO;2
Programmes: BAS Programmes > Global Science in the Antarctic Context (2005-2009) > Glacial Retreat in Antarctica and Deglaciation of the Earth System
ISSN: 1523-0430
Format Availability: Electronic, Print
Additional Keywords: Ice sheets ; Mass balance
NORA Subject Terms: Glaciology
Date made live: 24 Jul 2007 13:20 +0 (UTC)

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