The areal changes of the northern Larsen Ite Shelf (LIS), Antarctic Peninsula, between March 1986 and March 1997 have been analyzed, based on synthetic aperture radar images of the European remote-sensing satellites ERS-1 and ERS-2 and on Landsat images. This analysis is complemented by data on ice motion and surface mass balance which have been obtained during several field campaigns since the early 1980s. After a period of retreat, coinciding with atmospheric warming and with decreasing net accumulation at the surface due to melt losses, the two northernmost sections of LIS disintegrated almost completely within a few days in January 1995. Recent observations of the ice-shelf section north of Jason Peninsula, which is presently the northernmost section of LIS, show increased summer melt and intensification of the rifting processes, probably causing accelerated retreat of this section in the near future. The retreat and the disintegration event of LIS indicate high sensitivity of ice shelves to prolonged perturbations of the mass balance.
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