Dynamic thinning of glaciers on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula

B. Wouters*, A. Martin-Español, V. Helm, T. Flament, J. M. Van Wessem, S. R M Ligtenberg, M. R. Van Den Broeke, J. L. Bamber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Growing evidence has demonstrated the importance of ice shelf buttressing on the inland grounded ice, especially if it is resting on bedrock below sea level. Much of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula satisfies this condition and also possesses a bed slope that deepens inland. Such ice sheet geometry is potentially unstable. We use satellite altimetry and gravity observations to show that a major portion of the region has, since 2009, destabilized. Ice mass loss of the marine-terminating glaciers has rapidly accelerated from close to balance in the 2000s to a sustained rate of -56 ± 8 gigatons per year, constituting a major fraction of Antarctica's contribution to rising sea level. The widespread, simultaneous nature of the acceleration, in the absence of a persistent atmospheric forcing, points to an oceanic driving mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-903
Number of pages5
Issue number6237
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2015

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