Extreme Meltwater Conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula’s Largest Remaining Ice Shelf

The Cryosphere, February 25
During 2019-2020, surface melt duration and extent on the George VI Ice Shelf hit record-breaking highs, compared to the past 30 years of distinctly lower melt. The George VI Ice Shelf is 56 km long, and buttresses more land ice than any other remaining in the Peninsula. Large ponds of surface meltwater were observed especially on the northern end of the ice shelf, with 23% of the surface area covered by ponded meltwater in January. These exceptional melt and surface conditions were caused by warm, low-speed air currents that sustained air temperatures above freezing for unusually long periods, beginning in late November at the start of the Antarctic summer, and preventing refreezing. Increased surface ponding on ice shelves threatens their stability and may eventually lead to their collapse, as occurred with the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002.


Compiled by Amy Imdieke.