DOI: 10.1029/2023gl105435 ISSN: 0094-8276

Dynamic Response to Ice Shelf Basal Meltwater Relevant to Explain Observed Sea Ice Trends Near the Antarctic Continental Shelf

Wilma G. C. Huneke, William R. Hobbs, Andreas Klocker, Kaitlin A. Naughten
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


Observed Antarctic sea ice trends up to 2015 have a distinct regional and seasonal pattern, with a loss during austral summer and autumn in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas, and a year‐round increase in the Ross Sea. Global climate models generally failed to reproduce the magnitude of sea ice trends implying that the models miss relevant mechanisms. One possible mechanism is basal meltwater, which is generally not included in the current generation of climate models. Previous work on the effects of meltwater on sea ice has focused on thermodynamic processes. However, local freshening also leads to dynamic changes, affecting ocean currents through geostrophic balance. Using a coupled ocean/sea‐ice/ice‐shelf model, we demonstrate that basal melting can intensify coastal currents in West Antarctica and the westward transport of sea ice. This change in transport results in sea ice anomalies consistent with observations, and may explain the disparity between climate models and observations.

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