Summer drivers of atmospheric variability affecting ice shelf thinning in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica

Pranab Deb, Andrew Orr, David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, John Turner, J. Scott Hosking

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Satellite data and a 35-year hindcast of the Amundsen Sea Embayment summer climate using the Weather Research and Forecasting model are used to understand how regional and large-scale atmospheric variability affects thinning of ice shelves in this sector of West Antarctica by melting from above and below (linked to intrusions of warm water caused by anomalous westerlies over the continental shelf edge). El Nino episodes are associated with an increase in surface melt but do not have a statistically significant impact on westerly winds over the continental shelf edge. The location of the Amundsen Sea Low and the polarity of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) have negligible impact on surface melting, although a positive SAM and eastward shift of the Amundsen Sea Low cause anomalous westerlies over the continental shelf edge. The projected future increase in El Nino episodes and positive SAM could therefore increase the risk of disintegration of West Antarctic ice shelves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4124-4133
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number9
Early online date23 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2018


  • ice shelves
  • West Antarctica
  • Amundsen Sea Embayment
  • melting
  • Pine Island Glacier
  • El Nino-Southern Oscillation

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