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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 7 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 2307-2326, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-2307-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 19 Jul 2018

Research article | 19 Jul 2018

Dynamic response of Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet to potential collapse of Larsen C and George VI ice shelves

Clemens Schannwell1,2, Stephen Cornford3, David Pollard4, and Nicholas E. Barrand1 Clemens Schannwell et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 2British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, Cambridge, UK
  • 3Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • 4Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Abstract. Ice shelf break-up and disintegration events over the past 5 decades have led to speed-up, thinning, and retreat of upstream tributary glaciers and increases to rates of global sea-level rise. The southward progression of these episodes indicates a climatic cause and in turn suggests that the larger Larsen C and George VI ice shelves may undergo a similar collapse in the future. However, the extent to which removal of the Larsen C and George VI ice shelves will affect upstream tributary glaciers and add to global sea levels is unknown. Here we apply numerical ice-sheet models of varying complexity to show that the centennial sea-level commitment of Larsen C embayment glaciers following immediate shelf collapse is low ( < 2.5 mm to 2100,  < 4.2 mm to 2300). Despite its large size, Larsen C does not provide strong buttressing forces to upstream basins and its collapse does not result in large additional discharge from its tributary glaciers in any of our model scenarios. In contrast, the response of inland glaciers to a collapse of the George VI Ice Shelf may add up to 8mm to global sea levels by 2100 and 22mm by 2300 due in part to the mechanism of marine ice sheet instability. Our results demonstrate the varying and relative importance to sea level of the large Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves considered to present a risk of collapse.

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Despite the speculation on the state and fate of Larsen C Ice Shelf, a key unknown factor remains: what would be the effects of ice-shelf collapse on upstream drainage basins and thus global sea levels? In our paper three state-of-the-art numerical ice-sheet models were used to simulate the volume evolution of the inland ice sheet to ice-shelf collapse at Larsen C and George VI ice shelves. Our results suggest sea-level rise of up to ~ 4 mm for Larsen C ice shelf and ~ 22 for George VI ice shelf.
Despite the speculation on the state and fate of Larsen C Ice Shelf, a key unknown factor...
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