1Climate Change Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth
and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052,
2Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of
Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
3PANGEA Research Centre, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052,
Received: 06 May 2016 – Discussion started: 26 May 2016
Abstract. Recent observations and modelling studies have demonstrated the potential for rapid and substantial retreat of large sectors of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). This has major implications for ocean circulation and global sea level. Here we examine the effects of increasing meltwater from the Wilkes Basin, one of the major marine-based sectors of the EAIS, on Southern Ocean dynamics. Climate model simulations reveal that the meltwater flux rapidly stratifies surface waters, leading to a dramatic decrease in the rate of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) formation. The surface ocean cools but, critically, the Southern Ocean warms by more than 1 °C at depth. This warming is accompanied by a Southern Ocean-wide “domino effect”, whereby the warming signal propagates westward with depth. Our results suggest that melting of one sector of the EAIS could result in accelerated warming across other sectors, including the Weddell Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Thus, localised melting of the EAIS could potentially destabilise the wider Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Revised: 19 Aug 2016 – Accepted: 08 Sep 2016 – Published: 30 Sep 2016
Phipps, S. J., Fogwill, C. J., and Turney, C. S. M.: Impacts of marine instability across the East Antarctic Ice
Sheet on Southern Ocean dynamics, The Cryosphere, 10, 2317-2328, doi:10.5194/tc-10-2317-2016, 2016.