Abstract View

Volume 29 Issue 8 (August 2019)

GSA Today

Bookmark and Share

Article, pp. 4-10 | Full Text | PDF (2.8MB)

The Larsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica (LARISSA): Polar Systems Bound Together, Changing Fast

Julia S. Wellner

University of Houston, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Science & Research Building 1, 3507 Cullen Blvd., Room 214, Houston, Texas 77204-5008, USA

Ted Scambos

Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80303, USA

Eugene W. Domack*

College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, 140 7th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701-1567, USA

Maria Vernet

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 8622 Kennel Way, La Jolla, California 92037, USA

Amy Leventer

Colgate University, 421 Ho Science Center, 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, New York 13346, USA

Greg Balco

Berkeley Geochronology Center, 2455 Ridge Road, Berkeley , California 94709, USA

Stefanie Brachfeld

Montclair State University, 1 Normal Avenue, Montclair, New Jersey 07043, USA

Mattias R. Cape

University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Box 357940, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

Bruce Huber

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 61 US-9W, Palisades, New York 10964, USA

Scott Ishman

Southern Illinois University, 1263 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA

Michael L. McCormick

Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, New York 13323, USA

Ellen Mosley-Thompson

Dept. of Geography, Ohio State University, 1036 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA

Erin C. Pettit#

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dept. of Geosciences, 900 Yukon Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA

Craig R. Smith

University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2500 Campus Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA

Martin Truffer

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute, 2156 Koyukuk Drive, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, USA

Cindy Van Dover

Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Grainger Hall, 9 Circuit Drive, Box 90328, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA

Kyu-Cheul Yoo

Korea Polar Research Institute, 26 Songdomirae-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon 21990, Korea

* Deceased.
# Now at Oregon State University, College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, 104 CEOAS Admin. Building, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA.


Climatic, cryospheric, and biologic changes taking place in the northern Antarctic Peninsula provide examples for how ongoing systemic change may progress through the entire Antarctic system. A large, interdisciplinary research project focused on the Larsen Ice Shelf system, synthesized here, has documented dramatic ice cover, oceanographic, and ecosystem changes in the Antarctic Peninsula during the Holocene and the present period of rapid regional warming. The responsiveness of the region results from its position in the climate and ocean system, in which a narrow continental block extends across zonal atmospheric and ocean flow, creating high snow accumulation, strong gradients and gyres, dynamic oceanography, outlet glaciers feeding into many fjords and bays having steep topography, and a continental shelf that contains many glacially carved troughs separated by areas of glacial sediment accumulation. The microcosm of the northern Antarctic Peninsula has a tendency to change rapidly—rapid relative not just to Antarctica’s mainland but compared to the rest of the planet as well—and it is generally warmer than the rest of Antarctica. Both its Holocene and modern glaciological retreats offer a picture of how larger areas of Antarctica farther south might change under future warming.

Manuscript received 26 July 2018. Revised manuscript received 23 Jan. 2019. Manuscript accepted 30 Jan. 2019. Posted 21 Feb. 2019.

© The Geological Society of America, 2019. CC-BY-NC.