Articles | Volume 17, issue 2
Research article
 | Highlight paper
21 Feb 2023
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 21 Feb 2023

Climatology and surface impacts of atmospheric rivers on West Antarctica

Michelle L. Maclennan, Jan T. M. Lenaerts, Christine A. Shields, Andrew O. Hoffman, Nander Wever, Megan Thompson-Munson, Andrew C. Winters, Erin C. Pettit, Theodore A. Scambos, and Jonathan D. Wille

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Two decades of dynamic change and progressive destabilization on the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf
Karen E. Alley, Christian T. Wild, Adrian Luckman, Ted A. Scambos, Martin Truffer, Erin C. Pettit, Atsuhiro Muto, Bruce Wallin, Marin Klinger, Tyler Sutterley, Sarah F. Child, Cyrus Hulen, Jan T. M. Lenaerts, Michelle Maclennan, Eric Keenan, and Devon Dunmire
The Cryosphere, 15, 5187–5203,,, 2021
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Cited articles

Adusumilli, S., Fish, M., Fricker, H. A., and Medley, B.: Atmospheric River Precipitation Contributed to Rapid Increases in Surface Height of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in 2019, Geophys. Res. Lett., 48, e2020GL091076,, 2021. a, b, c
Alley, K. E., Scambos, T. A., Siegfried, M. R., and Fricker, H. A.: Impacts of warm water on Antarctic ice shelf stability through basal channel formation, Nat. Geosci., 9, 290–293,, 2016. a
Alley, K. E., Wild, C. T., Luckman, A., Scambos, T. A., Truffer, M., Pettit, E. C., Muto, A., Wallin, B., Klinger, M., Sutterley, T., Child, S. F., Hulen, C., Lenaerts, J. T. M., Maclennan, M., Keenan, E., and Dunmire, D.: Two decades of dynamic change and progressive destabilization on the Thwaites Eastern Ice Shelf, The Cryosphere, 15, 5187–5203,, 2021. a
Bao, J. W., Michelson, S. A., Neiman, P. J., Ralph, F. M., and Wilczak, J. M.: Interpretation of Enhanced Integrated Water Vapor Bands Associated with Extratropical Cyclones: Their Formation and Connection to Tropical Moisture, Mon. Weather Rev., 134, 1063–1080,, 2006. a
Bavay, M. and Egger, T.: MeteoIO 2.4.2: a preprocessing library for meteorological data, Geosci. Model Dev., 7, 3135–3151,, 2014. a
Atmospheric rivers are short-lived events that can have important impacts on the ice sheets but are not well resolved in climate models. They give rise to ice shelf loss and widespread melt in some areas but ice gain in others. The region of interest of this paper, Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, is one of the most important to understand in detail given potential sea level rise impacts and this study is therefore of interest to stakeholders and the general public as well as scientists concerned with atmosphere ice sheet interactions. The paper also sheds light on synoptic situations that lead to ARs and it is therefore of broad general scientific interest.
Short summary
Atmospheric rivers are air masses that transport large amounts of moisture and heat towards the poles. Here, we use a combination of weather observations and models to quantify the amount of snowfall caused by atmospheric rivers in West Antarctica which is about 10 % of the total snowfall each year. We then examine a unique event that occurred in early February 2020, when three atmospheric rivers made landfall over West Antarctica in rapid succession, leading to heavy snowfall and surface melt.