Quantifying the potential future contribution to global mean sea level from the Filchner–Ronne basin, Antarctica

Emily Hill*, Sebastian Rosier, Hilmar Gudmundsson, Matthew Collins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The future of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in response to climate warming is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in estimates of future changes in global mean sea level (ΔGMSL). Mass loss is currently concentrated in regions of warm circumpolar deep water, but it is unclear how ice shelves currently surrounded by relatively cold ocean waters will respond to climatic changes in the future. Studies suggest that warm water could flush the Filchner–Ronne (FR) ice shelf cavity during the 21st century, but the inland ice sheet response to a drastic increase in ice shelf melt rates is poorly known. Here, we use an ice flow model and uncertainty quantification approach to project the GMSL contribution of the FR basin under RCP emissions scenarios, and we assess the forward propagation and proportional contribution of uncertainties in model parameters (related to ice dynamics and atmospheric/oceanic forcing) on these projections. Our probabilistic projections, derived from an extensive sample of the parameter space using a surrogate model, reveal that the FR basin is unlikely to contribute positively to sea level rise by the 23rd century. This is primarily due to the mitigating effect of increased accumulation with warming, which is capable of suppressing ice loss associated with ocean-driven increases in sub-shelf melt. Mass gain (negative ΔGMSL) from the FR basin increases with warming, but uncertainties in these projections also become larger. In the highest emission scenario RCP8.5, ΔGMSL is likely to range from −103 to 26 mm, and this large spread can be apportioned predominantly to uncertainties in parameters driving increases in precipitation (30 %) and sub-shelf melting (44 %). There is potential, within the bounds of our input parameter space, for major collapse and retreat of ice streams feeding the FR ice shelf, and a substantial positive contribution to GMSL (up to approx. 300 mm), but we consider such a scenario to be very unlikely. Adopting uncertainty quantification techniques in future studies will help to provide robust estimates of potential sea level rise and further identify target areas for constraining projections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4675-4702
Number of pages28
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021


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