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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-130
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-130
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 25 May 2020

Submitted as: research article | 25 May 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

2020 Larsen C Ice Shelf surface melt is a 40-year record high

Suzanne Bevan1, Adrian Luckman1, Harry Hendon2, and Guomin Wang2 Suzanne Bevan et al.
  • 1Geography Department, College of Science, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP
  • 2Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract. Along with record-breaking summer air temperatures at two Antarctic Peninsula meteorological stations in February 2020, the Larsen C ice shelf experienced an exceptionally long and extensive 2019/2020 melt season. We use a 40-year time series of passive and scatterometer satellite microwave data, which is sensitive to the presence of liquid water in the snow pack, to reveal that the extent and duration of melt observed on the ice shelf in the austral summer of 2019/2020 was the greatest on record. We find that unusual perturbations to southern hemisphere modes of atmospheric flow, including a persistently positive Indian Ocean Dipole in the spring and a very rare southern hemisphere sudden stratospheric warming in September 2019, preceded the exceptionally warm Antarctic Peninsula summer. It is likely that tele-connections between the tropics and southern high latitudes were able to bring sufficient heat via the atmosphere and ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula to drive the extreme Larsen C Ice Shelf melt. The record breaking melt of 2019/2020 brought to an end the trend of decreasing melt that had begun in 1999/2000, and will re-initiate earlier thinning of the ice shelf by depletion of the firn air content.

Suzanne Bevan et al.

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Data sets

Antarctic Peninsula melt season durations based on level 1 ASCAT scatterometer data, 2017-2020 S. Bevan and A. Luckman https://doi.org/10.5285/cfa4cc5d-3ea9-4c3c-8d6b-6b92a81bb2af

Annual melt onset, duration and end dates for the Antarctic Peninsula derived from Quikscat and ASCAT scatterometer Enhanced Resolution data, 1999-2017 S. Bevan and A. Luckman https://doi.org/10.5285/e3616d28-759e-4cca-8fae-fe398f9552ba

Suzanne Bevan et al.

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Latest update: 04 Jul 2020
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Short summary
In Feb 2020, along with record-breaking high temperatures in the region, satellite images showed that the surface of the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula was experiencing a lot of melt. Using archived satellite data we show that this melt was greater than any in the past 40 years. The extreme melt followed unusual weather patterns further north, highlighting the importance of long-range links between the Tropics and high latitudes, and the impact on ice-shelf stability.
In Feb 2020, along with record-breaking high temperatures in the region, satellite images showed...
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