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

Feb 08, 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: 2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Weighing the Antarctic ice sheet

Sep 27, 2013

One of the last big unknowns in the global climate equation is Antarctica. How stable is the Antarctic ice sheet? More than a mile thick, on average, it locks up 70 percent of the Earth's fresh water.

Recommended for you

2014 Antarctic ozone hole holds steady

10 hours ago

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on Sept. 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year's hole was 24.1 million ...

New study finds oceans arrived early to Earth

13 hours ago

Earth is known as the Blue Planet because of its oceans, which cover more than 70 percent of the planet's surface and are home to the world's greatest diversity of life. While water is essential for life ...

Magma pancakes beneath Lake Toba

13 hours ago

Where do the tremendous amounts of material that are ejected to from huge volcanic calderas during super-eruptions actually originate?

User comments : 0

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.