New Research on the 2002 Collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf

February 8, 2008

A new study co-authored by NSIDC Research Scientist Ted Scambos and published in Volume 54 of the Journal of Glaciology sheds light on the 2002 collapse of a massive Antarctic ice shelf.

Lead Author Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom said, “Ice shelf collapse is not as simple as we first thought. Because large amounts of meltwater appeared on the ice shelf just before it collapsed, we had always assumed that air temperature increases were to blame." The study identified additional factors leading to the demise of the ice shelf.

Researchers found that rifts on the ice shelf had been growing for up to two decades before the sudden event of the summer of 2002. The indications are that the ice shelf was stressed as glacier flow began to increase over the 1990s.

Scambos said, “It's likely that melting from higher ocean temperatures, or even a gradual decline in the ice mass of the Peninsula over the centuries, was pushing the Larsen to the brink.”

Scambos pointed to studies that have measured warming of deep Southern Ocean currents, which increasingly brush against the Antarctic coastline. "This led to some thinning of the shelf, making it easier to break apart," he noted. "The unusually warm summer of 2002, part of a multi-decade trend of warming clearly tied to climate change, was the final straw," Scambos said.

Scambos added, "Knowing how these complex, large events work together helps us understand the potential for the collapse of another major ice shelf, such as the Larsen C."

To find the article online, visit the Journal of Glaciology at www.igsoc.org/journal/ .

Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Explore further: NASA study shows Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf nearing its final act

Related Stories

Colossal Antarctic ice-shelf collapse followed last ice age

February 18, 2016

In a new study that provides clues about how Antarctica's nation-sized Ross Ice Shelf might respond to a warming climate, U.S. and Japanese oceanographers have shown that a 100,000-square-mile section of the ice shelf broke ...

Wilkins Ice Shelf under threat

November 28, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- New rifts have developed on the Wilkins Ice Shelf that could lead to the opening of the ice bridge that has been preventing the ice shelf from disintegrating and breaking away from the Antarctic Peninsula.

Recommended for you

Historical records miss a fifth of global warming: NASA

July 22, 2016

A new NASA-led study finds that almost one-fifth of the global warming that has occurred in the past 150 years has been missed by historical records due to quirks in how global temperatures were recorded. The study explains ...

2016 climate trends continue to break records

July 19, 2016

Two key climate change indicators—global surface temperatures and Arctic sea ice extent—have broken numerous records through the first half of 2016, according to NASA analyses of ground-based observations and satellite ...

Warmer Mediterranean turns the Sahel green

July 21, 2016

Climate change can have mixed consequences: It would appear that the warming of the Mediterranean region, which has brought greater heat and drought to the countries there for around 20 years, is behind an increase in rainfall ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.