Climatic trend and the retreat and disintegration of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula: an overview

  • Pedro Skvarca
  • Wolfgang Rack
  • Helmut Rott
  • Teresa Ibarzábal Donángelo

Abstract

Observation of the retreat and disintegration of ice shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula during the last three decades and associated changes in air temperature, measured at various meteorological stations on the Antarctic Peninsula, are reviewed. The climatically induced retreat of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf on the east coast and of the Wordie, George VI, and Wilkins ice shelves on the west coast amounted to about 10 000 km2 since the mid-1960s. A summary is presented on the recession history of the Larsen Ice Shelf and on the collapse of those sections north of Robertson Island in early 1995. The area changes were derived from images of various satellites, dating back to a late 1963 image from the recently declassified US Argon space missions. This photograph reveals a previously unknown, minor advance of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf before 1975. During the period of retreat a consistent and pronounced warming trend was observed at the stations on both east and west coasts of the Antarctic Peninsula, but a major cause of the fast retreat and final collapse of the northernmost sections of the Larsen Ice Shelf were several unusually warm summers. Temperature records from the nearby station Marambio show that a positive mean summer temperature was reached for the first time in 1992-93. Recent observations indicate that the process of ice shelf disintegration is proceeding further south on both sides of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Published
1999-01-12
How to Cite
Skvarca, P., Rack, W., Rott, H., & Ibarzábal Donángelo, T. (1999). Climatic trend and the retreat and disintegration of ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula: an overview. Polar Research, 18(2), 151-157. https://doi.org/10.3402/polar.v18i2.6568