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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
24 Mar 2017
Review status
A revision of this discussion paper is under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).
Observationally constrained surface mass balance of Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Peter Kuipers Munneke1, Daniel McGrath2,3, Brooke Medley4, Adrian Luckman5, Suzanne Bevan5, Bernd Kulessa5, Daniela Jansen6, Adam Booth7, Paul Smeets1, Bryn Hubbard8, David Ashmore8, Michiel Van den Broeke1, Heidi Sevestre9, Konrad Steffen10, Andrew Shepherd7, and Noel Gourmelen11 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States
3US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK, United States
4Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States
5Geography Department, College of Science, Swansea University, Swansea, United Kingdom
6Alfred Wegener Institut, Bremerhaven, Germany
7School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
8Centre for Glaciology, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
9Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom
10Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
11School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Abstract. Combining several geophysical techniques, we reconstruct spatial and temporal patterns of surface mass balance (SMB) over Larsen C Ice Shelf (LCIS), Antarctic Peninsula. Continuous time series of snow height at five locations allow for multi-year estimates of seasonal and annual SMB over LCIS. There is high interannual variability, with an SMB of 395 ± 61 to 413 ± 42 mm w.e. y−1 in the north and a larger SMB of up to 496 ± 50 mm w.e. y−1 farther south. This difference between north and south is corroborated by winter snow accumulation derived from an airborne radar survey from 2009, which showed an average snow thickness of 0.95 m north of 76° S, and 1.12 m south of 78°. Analysis of ground-penetrating radar from several field campaigns allows for a longer-term perspective of spatial SMB: a particularly strong and coherent reflection horizon below 25–44 m w.e. of ice and firn is observed in radargrams collected across the shelf. We propose that this horizon was formed in a single melt season over the ice shelf. Combining ground and airborne radar with SMB output from a regional climate model confirms that SMB increases from north to south, overprinted by a gradient of increasing SMB to the west. Previous observations show a strong decrease in firn air content toward the west, which we attribute to spatial patterns of melt, refreezing, and densification, rather than SMB.

Citation: Kuipers Munneke, P., McGrath, D., Medley, B., Luckman, A., Bevan, S., Kulessa, B., Jansen, D., Booth, A., Smeets, P., Hubbard, B., Ashmore, D., Van den Broeke, M., Sevestre, H., Steffen, K., Shepherd, A., and Gourmelen, N.: Observationally constrained surface mass balance of Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica, The Cryosphere Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Peter Kuipers Munneke et al.
Peter Kuipers Munneke et al.
Peter Kuipers Munneke et al.


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Short summary
Larsen C Ice Shelf is a large floating glacier in Antarctica, the size of Wales. Much research focuses on whether this ice shelf is the next to collapse, after earlier ice-shelf disintegrations in recent decades. Models are used to assess Larsen C's stability. Such models can only be successful if we know how much ice is added to and removed from the ice shelf, e.g. by melt from below or snowfall on top. In this paper, we construct surface mass balance rates for Larsen C, using various methods.
Larsen C Ice Shelf is a large floating glacier in Antarctica, the size of Wales. Much research...