Geometric amplification and suppression of ice-shelf basal melt in West Antarctica
Abstract. Glaciers along the Amundsen Sea coastline in West Antarctica are dynamically adjusting to a change in ice-shelf mass balance that has triggered their retreat and speed-up prior to the satellite era. In recent decades, the ice shelves have continued to thin, albeit at a decelerating rate, whilst ice discharge across the grounding lines has been observed to increase by up to 100 % since the early 1990s. Here, the ongoing evolution of ice-shelf mass balance components is assessed in a high-resolution coupled ice-ocean model that includes the Pine Island, Thwaites, Crosson and Dotson ice shelves. For a range of idealized ocean-forcing scenarios, the combined evolution of ice-shelf geometry and basal melt rates is simulated over a 200-year period. For all ice-shelf cavities, a reconfiguration of the 3D ocean circulation in response to changes in cavity geometry is found to cause significant and sustained changes in basal melt rate, ranging from a 75 % decrease up to a 75 % increase near the grounding lines, irrespective of the far-field forcing. These previously unexplored feedbacks between changes in ice-shelf geometry, ocean circulation and basal melting have a demonstrable impact on the net ice-shelf mass balance, including grounding line discharge, at multidecadal timescales. They should be considered in future projections of Antarctic mass loss, alongside changes in ice-shelf melt due to anthropogenic trends in the ocean temperature and salinity.
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