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Surface melting on Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica

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The disintegration of Larsen A and B ice shelves in 1995 and 2002, respectively, was preceded by intense surface melting during the summer of ice-shelf collapse and previous summers. To understand the transition of the ice-shelf surface from dry to wet conditions, we developed a one-dimensional model, describing the mass, heat and force balances of water and firn within the ice-shelf surface layer. The model is run using atmospheric data from an automatic weather station on Larsen C ice shelf (World Meteorological Organization station 'Larsen Ice Site') located south of Larsen A and B. The model's derived melting rate is greater than melting predicted by the positive degree-day (PDD) approach, common in studies of ablating ice sheets, such as Greenland. The model shows that the years of ice-shelf break-up (1995 and 2002) are distinguished from previous years by local maxima in the number of melting days. When the PDD approach is considered, however, a maximum in the number of positive degree-days appears in the 2002 break-up year, but not in 1995.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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