Unexpected Basal Ocean Melting in East Antarctica

Nature Communications, August 24
The floating Shirase Ice Tongue (a long and narrow projection of ice, connected an ice basin about the size of the United Kingdom) in Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica, has revealed surprisingly high basal melt rates of 7 to 16 m per year. These rates equal or surpass the melting rate underneath the Totten Glacier Ice Shelf, formerly thought to be the only ice shelf in East Antarctica affected by melting from warm water below. Shirase’s melting seems caused by a deep continuous trough extending to the continental slope, guiding inflow of warm water pushed by alongshore winds. Melt occurs year-round, with highest rates in summer (December and January), and large month-to-month variability. Such high basal melt rates are comparable to those occurring in West Antarctica and signal new concerns about the future stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in a warming climate.
Compiled by Amy Imdieke.