Positive Mass Balance of the Ross Ice Streams, West Antarctica

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Science  18 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5554, pp. 476-480
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066875

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We have used ice-flow velocity measurements from synthetic aperture radar to reassess the mass balance of the Ross Ice Streams, West Antarctica. We find strong evidence for ice-sheet growth (+26.8 gigatons per year), in contrast to earlier estimates indicating a mass deficit (−20.9 gigatons per year). Average thickening is equal to ∼25% of the accumulation rate, with most of this growth occurring on Ice Stream C. Whillans Ice Stream, which was thought to have a significantly negative mass balance, is close to balance, reflecting its continuing slowdown. The overall positive mass balance may signal an end to the Holocene retreat of these ice streams.

  • * E-mail: ian{at}, tulaczyk{at}

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