The sensitivity of West Antarctica to the submarine melting feedback

Arthern, Robert J. ORCID:; Williams, C. Rosie. 2017 The sensitivity of West Antarctica to the submarine melting feedback. Geophysical Research Letters, 44 (5). 2352-2359.

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We use an ice sheet model with realistic initial conditions to forecast how the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica responds to recently observed rates of submarine melting. In these simulations, we isolate the effects of a positive feedback, driven by submarine melt in new ocean cavities flooded during retreat, by allowing the present climate, calving front and melting beneath existing ice shelves to persist over the 21st century. Even without additional forcing from changes in climate, ice shelf collapse, or ice cliff collapse, the model predicts slow, sustained retreat of West Antarctica, driven by the marine ice sheet instability and current levels of ocean-driven melting. When observed rates of melting are included in new subglacial ocean cavities, the simulated sea level contribution increases, and for sufficiently intense melting it accelerates over time. Conditional Bayesian probabilities for sea level contributions can be derived but will require improved predictions of ocean heat delivery.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BAS Programmes > BAS Programmes 2015 > Ice Dynamics and Palaeoclimate
ISSN: 00948276
Additional Keywords: West Antarctica, sea level, ocean, melt, ice sheet
Date made live: 18 Apr 2017 13:40 +0 (UTC)

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