03 Mar 2022
03 Mar 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Sensitivity of the Ross Ice Shelf to environmental and glaciological controls

Francesca Baldacchino1, Mathieu Morlighem2,3, Nicholas R. Golledge1, Huw Horgan1, and Alena Malyarenko4,1 Francesca Baldacchino et al.
  • 1Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA
  • 3Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
  • 4National Institute of Water and Atmosphere Research, Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract. The Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) is currently stable but recent observations have indicated that basal melt rates beneath the ice shelf are expected to increase. It is important to know which areas of the RIS are more sensitive to enhanced basal melting as well as other external forcings or internal material properties to understand how climate change will influence RIS mass balance. In this paper, we use Automatic Differentiation and the Ice Sheet and Sea-level System Model to quantify the sensitivity of the RIS to changes in basal friction, ice rigidity, surface mass balance, and basal melting. Using Volume Above Flotation (VAF) as our quantity of interest, we find that the RIS is most sensitive to changes in basal friction and ice rigidity close to grounding lines and along shear margins of the Siple Coast Ice Streams and Transantarctic Mountains Outlet Glaciers. RIS sensitivity to surface mass balance is uniform over grounded ice, while the sensitivity to basal melting is more spatially variable. With changes in basal melting close to the grounding zones of the Siple Coast Ice Streams and Transantarctic Mountains Outlet Glaciers as well as the pinning points of the RIS including Ross Island, Roosevelt Island, Crary Ice Rise, Steershead Ice Rise and the Shirase Coast Ice Rumples and the ice shelf shear margins having a larger impact on the RIS VAF. Our sensitivity maps allow areas of greatest future vulnerability to be identified.

Francesca Baldacchino et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-50', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 Apr 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-50', Anonymous Referee #2, 02 May 2022

Francesca Baldacchino et al.

Francesca Baldacchino et al.


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Short summary
Understanding how the Ross Ice Shelf will evolve in a warming world is important to the future stability of Antarctica. It remains unclear what changes could drive the largest mass loss in the future and where is most sensitive. This paper uses numerical modelling to produce sensitivity maps showing that the RIS is sensitive to changes in environmental and glaciological controls at regions which are currently experiencing changes. These regions need to be monitored in a warming world.