Collection |

Ice Sheets

The Earth’s polar ice sheets contain the equivalent of about 65 metres of sea level rise, and they are losing mass. Meltwater runoff, glacier retreat and ice shelf collapse have been observed in Greenland, West Antarctica, and the Antarctic Peninsula, and evidence of ice shelf thinning in East Antarctica is also emerging.

Understanding the sensitivity of the polar ice sheets to anthropogenic warming remains a major research challenge. In order to constrain future projections of ice sheet variability and the ensuing effects on the global climate system, we must better understand internal ice sheet variability, the interaction between ice sheets, the ocean, the atmosphere and the solid Earth, and improve our knowledge of ice sheet behaviour during past periods of climate change.

This collection has been curated by the Earth science editorial team with the intention of providing the ice sheets research community with a visible and discoverable home at Nature Communications. It is our hope that this continually updated collection of comments, reviews and research articles will provide a useful resource for researchers and decision makers alike and help bridge the Arctic and Antarctic communities.



  • Nature Communications | Review Article | open

    Understudied in the Antarctic system are the subsurface interfaces between ice-sheet, ocean and geological substrate. Here, the authors review our understanding of these components and propose new avenues of holistic dynamic modeling to achieve a unified understanding of past, present and future polar climate.

    • Florence Colleoni
    • , Laura De Santis
    • , Christine S. Siddoway
    • , Andrea Bergamasco
    • , Nicholas R. Golledge
    • , Gerrit Lohmann
    • , Sandra Passchier
    •  &  Martin J. Siegert


  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Discharge from Greenland is known to deliver nutrients to the marine environment. Here, the authors show that the majority of the nutrients fueling summertime productivity downstream of Greenland’s glaciers seemingly originate from entrainment in subglacial discharge plumes rather than from meltwater itself.

    • M. J. Hopwood
    • , D. Carroll
    • , T. J. Browning
    • , L. Meire
    • , J. Mortensen
    • , S. Krisch
    •  &  E. P. Achterberg
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Across all glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets, the gravitational driving stress, and therefore the average basal shear stress falls in a narrow range that tops out around 1 bar. Here, the authors show that the mechanical resistance posed by heterogeneous infiltration of ice into sediments governs the peak bed strength.

    • Colin R. Meyer
    • , Anthony S. Downey
    •  &  Alan W. Rempel
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Low frequency intrinsic ocean variability has an unknown impact on Antarctic ice shelves, yet can arise even in the absence of varying climate forcing. Here, the authors show that this variability significantly affects modelled basal melting under the Totten Ice Shelf, with implications for the attribution of change.

    • David E. Gwyther
    • , Terence J. O’Kane
    • , Benjamin K. Galton-Fenzi
    • , Didier P. Monselesan
    •  &  Jamin S. Greenbaum
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Ice sheet models forced by climate model output indicate ice-sheet retreat during the Pliocene, yet concerns remain regarding potential model bias. Here, the authors present results from the Pliocene Ice-sheet Modelling Intercomparison Project, and show that results are highly dependent on the model forcing used.

    • Aisling M. Dolan
    • , Bas de Boer
    • , Jorge Bernales
    • , Daniel J. Hill
    •  &  Alan M. Haywood
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The Greenland Ice Sheet has increasingly lost mass over the past few decades, yet the contribution from glaciers in Northeast Greenland is difficult to quantify. Here, the authors show that the floating part of 79 North Glacier has continuously lost mass since at least 2001, with a very high annual variability.

    • Christoph Mayer
    • , Janin Schaffer
    • , Tore Hattermann
    • , Dana Floricioiu
    • , Lukas Krieger
    • , Paul A. Dodd
    • , Torsten Kanzow
    • , Carlo Licciulli
    •  &  Clemens Schannwell
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The West Antarctic Ice Sheet sits atop an extensional rift system with volcano-like features, yet we do not know if any of these volcanoes are active, because identifying subglacial volcanism remains a challenge. Here, the authors find evidence in helium isotopes that a large volcanic heat source is emanating from beneath the fast-melting Pine Island Ice Glacier.

    • Brice Loose
    • , Alberto C. Naveira Garabato
    • , Peter Schlosser
    • , William J. Jenkins
    • , David Vaughan
    •  &  Karen J. Heywood