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Warm autumn winds could strain Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf

11 April 2019

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The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of Earth's coldest continent, making it particularly vulnerable to a changing global climate. Surface melting of snow and ice initiated the breakup of the northernmost Larsen A ice shelf in 1995, followed in 2002 by the Larsen B ice shelf to the south, which lost a section roughly the size of Rhode Island.

New research shows the Larsen C ice shelf—the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica, located just south of the former Larsen B shelf—experienced an unusual spike in late summer and early autumn surface melting in the years 2015 to 2017. The new study, spanning 35 years from 1982 to 2017, quantifies how much of this additional melting can be ascribed to warm, dry air currents called foehn winds that originate high in the peninsula's central mountain range.

Source: AGU

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Lauren Dauphin. - This satellite image from 3 March, 2016 shows unusual late summer/early fall melting on the Larsen C ice shelf.