Potential regime shift in decreased sea ice production after the Mertz Glacier calving

Nat Commun. 2012 May 8;3:826. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1820.


Variability in dense shelf water formation can potentially impact Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) production, a vital component of the global climate system. In East Antarctica, the George V Land polynya system (142-150°E) is structured by the local 'icescape', promoting sea ice formation that is driven by the offshore wind regime. Here we present the first observations of this region after the repositioning of a large iceberg (B9B) precipitated the calving of the Mertz Glacier Tongue in 2010. Using satellite data, we find that the total sea ice production for the region in 2010 and 2011 was 144 and 134 km(3), respectively, representing a 14-20% decrease from a value of 168 km(3) averaged from 2000-2009. This abrupt change to the regional icescape could result in decreased polynya activity, sea ice production, and ultimately the dense shelf water export and AABW production from this region for the coming decades.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't