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Melting of ice shelves and the mass balance of Antarctica

  • S.S. Jacobs (a1), H.H. Helmer (a1), C. S. M. Doake (a2), A. Jenkins (a2) and R. M. Frolich (a2)...

Abstract

We calculate the present ice budget for Antarctica from measurements of accumulation minus iceberg calving, run-off and in situ melting beneath the floating ice shelves. The resulting negative mass balance of 469 Gt year−1 differs substantially from other recent estimates but some components are subject to high temporal variability and budget uncertainties of 20–50%. Annual accumulation from an earlier review is adjusted to include the Antarctic Peninsula for a total of 2144 Gt year−1. An iceberg production rate of 2016 Gt year−1 is obtained from the volume of large icebergs calculated from satellite images since 1978, and from the results of an international iceberg census project. Ice-shelf melting of 544 Gt year−1 is derived from physical and geochemical observations of meltwater outflow, glaciological field studies and modeling of the sub-ice ocean circulation. The highest melt rates occur near ice fronts and deep within sub-ice cavities. Run-off from the ice-sheet surface and from beneath the grounded ice is taken to be 53 Gt year−1. Less than half of the negative mass balance need come from the grounded ice to account for the unattributed 0.45 mm year−1 in the IPCC “best estimate” of the recent global sea-level rise.

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References

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