Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

New Study Pin-Points East Antarctic Ice Sheet's Vulnerability

(11 May 2016)

Outlet glaciers in Wilkes Land, East Antarctica
(credit: Professor Mike Hambrey)

Building on his previous work, published in Nature, Bertie compiled a ground-breaking new dataset of the behaviour of 351 major outlet glaciers across the entire East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Although most of the world's largest ice sheet is considered stable, the data clearly showed one particular region where the majority of glaciers had retreated in the last decade or so. This region - known as Wilkes Land (see photo) - is particularly vulnerable because the ice sheet sits on a bed well below sea-level and it might be especially prone to rapid retreat. The cause of this anomalous retreat is likely to be complex, but it is hypothesised that it might be linked to a reduction in sea ice in this region and the associated impacts on oceanic conditions, which is likely to increase the circulation of warm deep water towards the glacier fronts.

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.