Mass loss of the Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica from four independent techniques

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Abstract

We compare four independent estimates of the mass balance of the Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica, an area experiencing rapid retreat and mass loss to the sea. We use ICESat and Operation IceBridge laser altimetry, Envisat radar altimetry, GRACE time-variable gravity, RACMO2.3 surface mass balance, ice velocity from imaging radars, and ice thickness from radar sounders. The four methods agree in terms of mass loss and acceleration in loss at the regional scale. Over 1992–2013, the mass loss is 83 ± 5 Gt/yr with an acceleration of 6.1 ± 0.7 Gt/yr2. During the common period 2003–2009, the mass loss is 84 ± 10 Gt/yr with an acceleration of 16.3 ± 5.6 Gt/yr2, nearly 3 times the acceleration over 1992–2013. Over 2003–2011, the mass loss is 102 ± 10 Gt/yr with an acceleration of 15.7 ± 4.0 Gt/yr2. The results reconcile independent mass balance estimates in a setting dominated by change in ice dynamics with significant variability in surface mass balance.

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