Geophysical Research Letters

Snowfall-driven mass change on the East Antarctic ice sheet



[1] An improved understanding of processes dominating the sensitive balance between mass loss primarily due to glacial discharge and mass gain through precipitation is essential for determining the future behavior of the Antarctic ice sheet and its contribution to sea level rise. While satellite observations of Antarctica indicate that West Antarctica experiences dramatic mass loss along the Antarctic Peninsula and Pine Island Glacier, East Antarctica has remained comparably stable. In this study, we describe the causes and magnitude of recent extreme precipitation events along the East Antarctic coast that led to significant regional mass accumulations that partially compensate for some of the recent global ice mass losses that contribute to global sea level rise. The gain of almost 350 Gt from 2009 to 2011 is equivalent to a decrease in global mean sea level at a rate of 0.32 mm/yr over this three-year period.