Antarctic ice sheet mass loss estimates using Modified Antarctic Mapping Mission surface flow observations


Corresponding author: D. Ren, ASDI, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia. (


[1] The long residence time of ice and the relatively gentle slopes of the Antarctica Ice Sheet make basal sliding a unique positive feedback mechanism in enhancing ice discharge along preferred routes. The highly organized ice stream channels extending to the interior from the lower reach of the outlets are a manifestation of the role of basal granular material in enhancing the ice flow. In this study, constraining the model-simulated year 2000 ice flow fields with surface velocities obtained from InSAR measurements permits retrieval of the basal sliding parameters. Forward integrations of the ice model driven by atmospheric and oceanic parameters from coupled general circulation models under different emission scenarios provide a range of estimates of total ice mass loss during the 21st century. The total mass loss rate has a small intermodel and interscenario spread, rising from approximately −160 km3/yr at present to approximately −220 km3/yr by 2100. The accelerated mass loss rate of the Antarctica Ice Sheet in a warming climate is due primarily to a dynamic response in the form of an increase in ice flow speed. Ice shelves contribute to this feedback through a reduced buttressing effect due to more frequent systematic, tabular calving events. For example, by 2100 the Ross Ice Shelf is projected to shed ~40 km3 during each systematic tabular calving. After the frontal section's attrition, the remaining shelf will rebound. Consequently, the submerged cross-sectional area will reduce, as will the buttressing stress. Longitudinal differential warming of ocean temperature contributes to tabular calving. Because of the prevalence of fringe ice shelves, oceanic effects likely will play a very important role in the future mass balance of the Antarctica Ice Sheet, under a possible future warming climate.