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2001–2009 elevation and mass losses in the Larsen A and B embayments, Antarctic Peninsula

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We investigate the elevation and mass-balance response of tributary glaciers following the loss of the Larsen A and B ice shelves, Antarctic Peninsula (in 1995 and 2002 respectively). Our study uses MODIS imagery to track ice extent, and ASTER and SPOT5 digital elevation models (DEMs) plus ATM and ICESat laser altimetry to track elevation changes, spanning the period 2001–09. The measured Larsen B tributary glaciers (Hektoria, Green, Evans, Punchbowl, Jorum and Crane) lost up to 160 m in elevation during 2001–06, and thinning continued into 2009. Elevation changes were small for the more southerly Flask and Leppard Glaciers, which are still constrained by a Larsen B ice shelf remnant. In the northern embayment, continued thinning of >3 m a−1 on Drygalski Glacier, 14 years after the Larsen A ice shelf disintegrated, suggests that mass losses for the exposed Larsen B tributaries will continue for years into the future. Grounded ice volume losses exceed 13 km3 for Crane Glacier and 30 km3 for the Hektoria–Green–Evans glaciers. The combined mean loss rate for 2001–06 is at least 11.2 Gt a−1. Our values differ significantly from published mass-budget-based estimates for these embayments, but are a reasonable fraction of GRACE-derived rates for the region (∼40 Gt a−1).

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-09-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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