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: NASA gets two last looks at Tropical Cyclone Jack

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

NASA sees last vestiges of Tropical Depression Jack

7 hours ago

Tropical Cyclone Jack had weakened to a tropical depression when NASA and JAXA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed above on April 22, 2014 at 1120 UTC/7:20 a.m. EDT.

New discovery helps solve mystery source of African lava

11 hours ago

Floods of molten lava may sound like the stuff of apocalyptic theorists, but history is littered with evidence of such past events where vast lava outpourings originating deep in the Earth accompany the breakup ...

Climate change likely to make Everest even riskier

11 hours ago

Climbing to the roof of the world is becoming less predictable and possibly more dangerous, scientists say, as climate change brings warmer temperatures that may eat through the ice and snow on Mount Everest.

User comments : 0

More news stories