Sensitivity of melting, freezing and marine ice beneath Larsen C Ice Shelf to changes in ocean forcing

Lianne C. Harrison, Paul R. Holland, Karen J. Heywood, Keith W. Nicholls, Alex M. Brisbourne

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Observations of surface lowering on Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS), Antarctica, have prompted concern about its stability. In this study, an ocean model is used to investigate the extent to which changes in ocean forcing may have influenced ice loss and the distribution of stabilizing marine ice beneath LCIS. The model uses a new bathymetry, containing a southern seabed trough discovered using seismic observations. The modeled extent of marine ice, thought to stabilize LCIS, is in good agreement with observations. Experiments applying idealized ocean warming yield an increase in melting over the southern trough. This is inconsistent with lowering observed in northern LCIS, suggesting oceanic forcing is not responsible for that signal. The marine ice extent and thickness reduces significantly under ocean warming, implying a high sensitivity of LCIS stability to changes in ocean forcing. This result could have wide implications for other cold-water ice shelves around Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL096914
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
Early online date14 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2022


  • ice shelf-ocean interactions
  • Larsen C Ice Shelf
  • marine ice
  • model validation
  • ocean warming experiments

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