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The Impact of the Extreme 2015–2016 El Niño on the Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13862-13871
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
Early online date19 Nov 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 14 Nov 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2019
DatePublished (current) - 16 Dec 2019


Interannual variations associated with El Niño-Southern Oscillation can alter the surface-pressure distribution and moisture transport over Antarctica, potentially affecting the contribution of the Antarctic ice sheet to sea level. Here, we combine satellite gravimetry with auxiliary atmospheric data sets to investigate interannual ice-mass changes during the extreme 2015–2016 El Niño. Enhanced precipitation during this event contributed positively to the mass of the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctic ice sheets, with the mass gain on the peninsula being unprecedented within GRACE's observational record. Over the coastal basins of East Antarctica, the precipitation-driven mass loss observed in recent years was arrested, with pronounced accumulation over Terre Adélie dominating this response. Little change was observed over Central Antarctica where, after a brief pause, enhanced mass-loss due to weakened precipitation continued. Overall, precipitation changes over this period were sufficient to temporarily offset Antarctica's usual (approximately 0.4 mm yr−1) contribution to global mean sea level rise.

    Research areas

  • Antarctica, El Niño, Mass Balance, GRACE, Precipitation



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