CLIMATOLOGY: Breaking Up Is Easy

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Science  09 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5506, pp. 947A
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5506.947A

Several peripheral ice shelves have disappeared from the northern Antarctic Peninsula during the past few decades, most likely as a result of strong regional warming. The breakup of these shelves has occurred much more quickly, however, than would be expected if it were due simply to a thermal response of the ice. Scambos et al. review existing in situ and remote-sensing data in order to identify the characteristics associated with ice-shelf retreat. They conclude that melt pond formation in areas with preexisting crevasses, rather than just warming of the ice, is responsible for most breakup events. They construct a numerical model to evaluate ice flow and the strain field associated with crack propagation by melt water, and find that while melt water does not cause the formation of crevasses, it is extremely effective at deepening those already present. — HJS


J. Glaciol. 46, 516 (2000).

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