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Trends and connections across the Antarctic cryosphere

Naturevolume 558pages223232 (2018) | Download Citation


Satellite observations have transformed our understanding of the Antarctic cryosphere. The continent holds the vast majority of Earth’s fresh water, and blankets swathes of the Southern Hemisphere in ice. Reductions in the thickness and extent of floating ice shelves have disturbed inland ice, triggering retreat, acceleration and drawdown of marine-terminating glaciers. The waxing and waning of Antarctic sea ice is one of Earth’s greatest seasonal habitat changes, and although the maximum extent of the sea ice has increased modestly since the 1970s, inter-annual variability is high, and there is evidence of longer-term decline in its extent.

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This work was supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (cpom300001) and the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative. AS was supported by a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award. SLF was supported under NASA grant 80NSSC17K0006 and NOAA grant NA14NES4320003. We thank T. Slater, A. Ridout, and L. Gilbert for their help in preparing Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, and K. Duncan for help in preparing Fig. 4.

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  1. Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

    • Andrew Shepherd
  2. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

    • Helen Amanda Fricker
  3. Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

    • Sinead Louise Farrell


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A.S. coordinated the work, and led the review of grounded ice. H.F. led the review of ice shelves and subglacial lakes. S.F. led the review of sea ice.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrew Shepherd.

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