Melting of ice shelves and the mass balance of Antarctica

S. S. Jacobs, H. H. Helmer, C. S.M. Doake, A. Jenkins, R. M. Frolich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

342 Citations (Scopus)


We calculate the present ice budget for Antarctica from measurements of accumulation minus iceberg calving, run-off and in situ melting beneath the floating ice shelves. The resulting negative mass balance of 469 Gt year-1 differs substantially from other recent estimates but some components are subject to high temporal variability and budget uncertainties of 20-50%. Annual accumulation from an earlier review is adjusted to include the Antarctic Peninsula for a total of 2144 Gt year-1. An iceberg production rate of 2016 Gt year-1 is obtained from the volume of large icebergs calculated from satellite images since 1978, and from the results of an international iceberg census project. Ice-shelf melting of 544 Gt year-1 is derived from physical and geochemical observations of meltwater outflow, glaciological field studies and modeling of the sub-ice ocean circulation. Run-off from the ice-sheet surface and from beneath the grounded ice is taken to be 53 Gt year-1. Less than half of the negative mass balance need come from the grounded ice to account for the unattributed 0.45 mm year-1 in the IPCC "best estimate' of the recent global sea-level rise. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-387
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number130
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes


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