Article

Response of Pacific-sector Antarctic ice shelves to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation

  • Nature Geosciencevolume 11pages121126 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41561-017-0033-0
  • Download Citation
Received:
Accepted:
Published online:

Abstract

Satellite observations over the past two decades have revealed increasing loss of grounded ice in West Antarctica, associated with floating ice shelves that have been thinning. Thinning reduces an ice shelf’s ability to restrain grounded-ice discharge, yet our understanding of the climate processes that drive mass changes is limited. Here, we use ice-shelf height data from four satellite altimeter missions (1994–2017) to show a direct link between ice-shelf height variability in the Antarctic Pacific sector and changes in regional atmospheric circulation driven by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation. This link is strongest from the Dotson to Ross ice shelves and weaker elsewhere. During intense El Niño years, height increase by accumulation exceeds the height decrease by basal melting, but net ice-shelf mass declines as basal ice loss exceeds ice gain by lower-density snow. Our results demonstrate a substantial response of Amundsen Sea ice shelves to global and regional climate variability, with rates of change in height and mass on interannual timescales that can be comparable to the longer-term trend, and with mass changes from surface accumulation offsetting a significant fraction of the changes in basal melting. This implies that ice-shelf height and mass variability will increase as interannual atmospheric variability increases in a warming climate.

  • Subscribe to Nature Geoscience for full access:

    $59

    Subscribe

Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Change history

  • Correction 20 January 2018

    In the version of this Article originally published, there was a spelling mistake in Figure 3 where ‘La Niña’ was incorrectly spelled ‘La Niño’. This has been corrected in all versions of the Article.

References

  1. 1.

    Church, J. A. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) 1137–1177 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

  2. 2.

    Fretwell, P. et al. Bedmap2: improved ice bed, surface and thickness datasets for Antarctica. Cryosphere 7, 375–393 (2013).

  3. 3.

    Bamber, J. L., Riva, R. E. M., Vermeersen, B. L. A. & LeBrocq, A. M. Reassessment of the potential sea-level rise from a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Science 324, 901–903 (2009).

  4. 4.

    Favier, L. et al. Retreat of Pine Island Glacier controlled by marine ice-sheet instability. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 117–121 (2014).

  5. 5.

    Joughin, I., Smith, B. E. & Medley, B. Marine ice sheet collapse potentially under way for the Thwaites Glacier Basin, West Antarctica. Science 344, 735–738 (2014).

  6. 6.

    DeConto, R. M. & Pollard, D. Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise. Nature 531, 591–597 (2016).

  7. 7.

    Weertman, J. Stability of the junction of an ice sheet and an ice shelf. J. Glaciol. 13, 3–11 (1974).

  8. 8.

    Rignot, E., Mouginot, J., Morlighem, M., Seroussi, H. & Scheuchl, B. Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica, from 1992 to 2011. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 3502–3509 (2014).

  9. 9.

    Paolo, F. S., Fricker, H. A. & Padman, L. Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating. Science 348, 327–331 (2015).

  10. 10.

    Pritchard, H. D. et al. Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves. Nature 484, 502–505 (2012).

  11. 11.

    Jacobs, S. S., Jenkins, A., Giulivi, C. F. & Dutrieux, P. Stronger ocean circulation and increased melting under Pine Island Glacier ice shelf. Nat. Geosci. 4, 1–5 (2011).

  12. 12.

    Thoma, M., Jenkins, A., Holland, D. & Jacobs, S. Modelling Circumpolar Deep Water intrusions on the Amundsen Sea continental shelf, Antarctica. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L18602 (2008).

  13. 13.

    Steig, E. J., Ding, Q., Battisti, D. S. & Jenkins, A. Tropical forcing of Circumpolar Deep Water Inflow and outlet glacier thinning in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica. Ann. Glaciol. 53, 19–28 (2012).

  14. 14.

    Dutrieux, P. et al. Strong sensitivity of Pine Island ice-shelf melting to climatic variability. Science 343, 174–178 (2014).

  15. 15.

    Jacobs, S. et al. Getz Ice Shelf melting response to changes in ocean forcing. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans 118, 4152–4168 (2013).

  16. 16.

    Turner, J. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation and Antarctica. Int. J. Climatol. 24, 1–31 (2004).

  17. 17.

    Raphael, M. N. et al. The Amundsen Sea Low: Variability, change, and impact on Antarctic climate. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 97, 111–121 (2016).

  18. 18.

    Hosking, J. S., Orr, A., Marshall, G. J., Turner, J. & Phillips, T. The influence of the Amundsen–Bellingshausen Seas Low on the climate of West Antarctica and its representation in coupled climate model simulations. J. Clim. 26, 6633–6648 (2013).

  19. 19.

    Turner, J. et al. Atmosphere-ocean-ice interactions in the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica. Rev. Geophys. 55, G000532 (2017).

  20. 20.

    Philander, S. G. El Nino, La Nina, and the Southern Oscillation (Academic Press, San Diego, 1989).

  21. 21.

    Schneider, D. P., Okumura, Y. & Deser, C. Observed Antarctic interannual climate variability and tropical linkages. J. Clim. 25, 4048–4066 (2012).

  22. 22.

    Sasgen, I., Dobslaw, H., Martinec, Z. & Thomas, M. Satellite gravimetry observation of Antarctic snow accumulation related to ENSO. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 299, 352–358 (2010).

  23. 23.

    Genthon, C. & Cosme, E. Intermittent signature of ENSO in west-Antarctic precipitation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 2081 (2003).

  24. 24.

    Medley, B. et al. Airborne-radar and ice-core observations of annual snow accumulation over Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica confirm the spatiotemporal variability of global and regional atmospheric models. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 3649–3654 (2013).

  25. 25.

    Steig, E. J. et al. Recent climate and ice-sheet changes in West Antarctica compared with the past 2,000 years. Nat. Geosci. 6, 372–375 (2013).

  26. 26.

    Yuan, X. ENSO-related impacts on Antarctic sea ice: a synthesis of phenomenon and mechanisms. Antarct. Sci. 16, 415–425 (2004).

  27. 27.

    Raphael, M. N. & Hobbs, W. The influence of the large-scale atmospheric circulation on Antarctic sea ice during ice advance and retreat seasons. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, L060365 (2014).

  28. 28.

    Marshall, G. J. Trends in the Southern Annular Mode from observations and reanalyses. J. Clim. 16, 4134–4143 (2003).

  29. 29.

    Abram, N. J. et al. Evolution of the Southern Annular Mode during the past millennium. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 564–569 (2014).

  30. 30.

    Fogt, R. L., Jones, J. M. & Renwick, J. Seasonal zonal asymmetries in the Southern Annular Mode and their impact on regional temperature anomalies. J. Clim. 25, 6253–6270 (2012).

  31. 31.

    Fogt, R. L., Bromwich, D. H. & Hines, K. M. Understanding the SAM influence on the South Pacific ENSO teleconnection. Clim. Dyn. 36, 1555–1576 (2011).

  32. 32.

    Clem, K. R. & Fogt, R. L. Varying roles of ENSO and SAM on the Antarctic Peninsula climate in austral spring. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 118, 11481–11492 (2013).

  33. 33.

    Paolo, F. S., Fricker, H. A. & Padman, L. Constructing improved decadal records of Antarctic ice shelf height change from multiple satellite radar altimeters. Remote Sens. Environ. 177, 192–205 (2016).

  34. 34.

    Cleveland, W. S. Robust locally weighted regression and smoothing scatterplots. J. Am. Stat. Assoc. 74, 829–836 (1979).

  35. 35.

    Politis, D. N. & Romano, J. P. The stationary bootstrap. J. Am. Stat. Assoc. 89, 1303–1313 (1994).

  36. 36.

    Mudelsee, M. Estimating Pearson’s correlation coefficient with bootstrap confidence interval from serially dependent time series. Math. Geol. 35, 651–665 (2003).

  37. 37.

    Huang, B. et al. Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature Version 4 (ERSST.v4). Part I: upgrades and intercomparisons. J. Clim. 28, 911–930 (2014).

  38. 38.

    Dee, D. P. et al. The ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. Royal Meteorol. Soc. 137, 553–597 (2011).

  39. 39.

    Padman, L., King, M., Goring, D., Corr, H. & Coleman, R. Ice-shelf elevation changes due to atmospheric pressure variations. J. Glaciol. 49, 521–526 (2003).

  40. 40.

    Lenaerts, J. T. M., van den Broeke, M. R., van de Berg, W. J., van Meijgaard, E. & Kuipers Munneke, P. A new, high-resolution surface mass balance map of Antarctica (1979–2010) based on regional atmospheric climate modeling. Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L04501 (2012).

  41. 41.

    Van Wessem, J. M. et al. Improved representation of East Antarctic surface mass balance in a regional atmospheric climate model. J. Glaciol. 60, 761–770 (2014).

  42. 42.

    Rignot, E., Jacobs, S., Mouginot, J. & Scheuchl, B. Ice-shelf melting around Antarctica. Science 341, 266–270 (2013).

  43. 43.

    Depoorter, M. A. et al. Calving fluxes and basal melt rates of Antarctic ice shelves. Nature 502, 89–92 (2013).

  44. 44.

    Ghil, M. et al. Advanced spectral methods for climatic time series. Rev. Geophys. 40, 3–41 (2002).

  45. 45.

    Vautard, R., Yiou, P. & Ghil, M. Singular-spectrum analysis: A toolkit for short, noisy chaotic signals. Physica D 58, 95–126 (1992).

  46. 46.

    Allen, M. R. & Smith, L. A. Monte Carlo SSA: Detecting irregular oscillations in the presence of colored noise. J. Clim. 9, 3373–3404 (1996).

  47. 47.

    Raphael, M. N. A zonal wave 3 index for the Southern Hemisphere. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L23212 (2004).

  48. 48.

    Fogt, R. L. Sidebar 6.1: El Niño and Antarctica. In State of the Climate in 2015 (eds Blunden, J. & Arndt, D. S.) Vol. 97, 162 (Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Boston, 2016).

  49. 49.

    Frieler, K. et al. Consistent evidence of increasing Antarctic accumulation with warming. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 348–352 (2015).

  50. 50.

    Cai, W. et al. Increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events due to greenhouse warming. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 111–116 (2014).

  51. 51.

    Siegfried, M. R., Fricker, H. A., Roberts, M., Scambos, T. A. & Tulaczyk, S. A decade of West Antarctic subglacial lake interactions from combined ICESat and CryoSat-2 altimetry. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 891–898 (2014).

  52. 52.

    McMillan, M. et al. Increased ice losses from Antarctica detected by CryoSat-2. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, L060111 (2014).

  53. 53.

    Chuter, S. J. & Bamber, J. L. Antarctic ice shelf thickness from CryoSat-2 radar altimetry. Geophys. Res. Lett. 42, L066515 (2015).

  54. 54.

    Maslanik, J. & Stroeve, J. Near-Real-Time DMSP SSMIS Daily Polar Gridded Sea Ice Concentrations, Version 1 (NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center, Boulder, 1999).

  55. 55.

    Cavalieri, D. J., Gloersen, P. & Campbell, W. J. Determination of sea ice parameters with the NIMBUS 7 SMMR. J. Geophys. Res. Atmosph. 89, 5355–5369 (1984).

  56. 56.

    Liu, W. et al. Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature Version 4 (ERSST.v4): Part II. Parametric and structural uncertainty estimations. J. Clim. 28, 931–951 (2014).

  57. 57.

    Hosking, J. S., Orr, A., Bracegirdle, T. J. & Turner, J. Future circulation changes off West Antarctica: Sensitivity of the Amundsen Sea Low to projected anthropogenic forcing. Geophys. Res. Lett. 43, L067143 (2016).

  58. 58.

    Ligtenberg, S. R. M., Helsen, M. M. & Van Den Broeke, M. R. An improved semi-empirical model for the densification of Antarctic firn. Cryosphere 5, 809–819 (2011).

  59. 59.

    Mudelsee, M. TAUEST: A Computer Program for Estimating Persistence in Unevenly Spaced Weather/Climate Time Series. Comput. Geosci. 28, 69–72 (2002).

  60. 60.

    Golyandina, N. & Zhigljavsky, A. Singular Spectrum Analysis for Time Series (Springer, Berlin, 2013).

  61. 61.

    Elsner, J. B. & Tsonis, A. A. Singular Spectrum Analysis: A New Tool in Time Series Analysis (Springer, Berlin, 1996).

  62. 62.

    Groth, A., Ghil, M., Hallegatte, S. & Dumas, P. The role of oscillatory modes in US business cycles. J. Bus. Cycle Meas. Anal. 2015, 63–81 (2015).

  63. 63.

    Wåhlin, A. K., Yuan, X., Björk, G. & Nohr, C. Inflow of warm Circumpolar Deep Water in the Central Amundsen Shelf. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 40, 1427–1434 (2010).

  64. 64.

    Moholdt, G., Padman, L. & Fricker, H. A. Basal mass budget of Ross and Filchner-Ronne ice shelves, Antarctica, derived from Lagrangian analysis of ICESat altimetry. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 119, 2014JF003171 (2014).

  65. 65.

    Mouginot, J., Rignot, E. & Scheuchl, B. Sustained increase in ice discharge from the Amundsen Sea Embayment, West Antarctica, from 1973 to 2013. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 1576–1584 (2014).

  66. 66.

    Sutterley, T. C. et al. Mass loss of the Amundsen Sea Embayment of West Antarctica from four independent techniques. Geophys. Res. Lett. 41, 2014GL061940 (2014).

  67. 67.

    Rignot, E. et al. Recent Antarctic ice mass loss from radar interferometry and regional climate modelling. Nat. Geosci. 1, 106–110 (2008).

  68. 68.

    van de Berg, W. J., van den Broeke, M. R., Reijmer, C. H. & van Meijgaard, E. Reassessment of the Antarctic surface mass balance using calibrated output of a regional atmospheric climate model. J. Geophys. Res. Atmospheres 111, D11104 (2006).

  69. 69.

    Bracegirdle, T. J. & Marshall, G. J. The reliability of Antarctic tropospheric pressure and temperature in the latest global reanalyses. J. Clim. 25, 7138–7146 (2012).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by NASA (awards NNX12AN50H 002 (93735A), NNX10AG19G and NNX13AP60G). This is ESR contribution 159. We thank J. Zwally’s Ice Altimetry group at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for distributing their data sets for ERS-1/2 and Envisat satellite radar-altimeter missions (http://icesat4.gsfc.nasa.gov), and the European Space Agency (ESA) for distributing their CryoSat-2 data. We thank S. Ligtenberg, M. van Wessem and M. van den Broeke for providing the surface mass balance and firn densification model-derived products.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA

    • F. S. Paolo
    • , H. A. Fricker
    • , S. Adusumilli
    •  & M. R. Siegfried
  2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

    • F. S. Paolo
  3. Earth & Space Research, Corvallis, OR, USA

    • L. Padman
  4. Earth & Space Research, Seattle, WA, USA

    • S. Howard
  5. Department of Geophysics, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA

    • M. R. Siegfried

Authors

  1. Search for F. S. Paolo in:

  2. Search for L. Padman in:

  3. Search for H. A. Fricker in:

  4. Search for S. Adusumilli in:

  5. Search for S. Howard in:

  6. Search for M. R. Siegfried in:

Contributions

F.S.P. and L.P. devised the study. F.S.P. processed the data and performed the analyses. F.S.P., L.P. and H.A.F. wrote the manuscript. S.A. and M.R.S. provided the CryoSat-2 time series. S.H. processed the ERA-Interim and sea-ice products. All authors discussed the results and reviewed the manuscript.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. S. Paolo.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary figures.