Antarctic Ice Shelves Melting Away from Stabilizing Seafloor Anchors

Nature, 21 February 2024

Rising temperatures have caused the disappearance of many “pinning points” which anchor ice shelves to the seafloor around West Antarctica and regions of East Antarctica over the past five decades. Ice shelf pinning points are fundamental to ice sheet stability, serving as buttresses that slow the flow of ice into the ocean. Authors found that the vast majority of pinning points along the 3000-km coastline of the Amundsen Sea Sector (West Antarctica) and 800-km of Wilkes Land (East Antarctica) have dramatically shrunk or completely vanished since 2000. Ice shelf thinning has already driven major ice shelves, including the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, to become completely unanchored; and could lead to irreversible loss of previously stable regions, such as the massive George VI, Getz, Holmes, and Totten ice shelves. A continuation of this trend through lack of reduced fossil fuel emissions will further increase ice loss and Antarctica’s contribution to global sea-level rise.

By Amy Imdieke, Global Outreach Director, and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI.
Published Feb. 26, 2024      Updated Feb. 26, 2024 11:12 pm