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Atmospheric variability in West Antarctica : impact on the ocean circulation and on theice-sheet surface mass balance

Abstract : West Antarctica, and particularly the Amundsen sector, has shown since the 1990s a large increase of mass loss related to coastal glacier acceleration in response to an increase of oceanic melt underneath ice shelves. Ice shelves play a buttressing role for ice-stream and increased oceanic melt therefore lead to ice shelves thinning and glacier acceleration, which contributes to sea level rise. West Antarctica is of particular concern because its configuration is prone to marine ice-sheet instability. It has been suggested that ice shelves weaken under large surface melt in a warmer climate (hydrofracturing), possibly leading to another kind of instability. Instabilities could be slowed down or compensated by future Surface Mass Balance (SMB) that consists mainly of snowfall, sporadic rainfall, and is slightly reduced by sublimation and runoff. The main objective of this PhD work is to model the atmospheric and oceanic processes that will most likely affect the future West Antarctic contribution to sea level rise.First, oceanic projections have been developed using the NEMO ocean model. The ocean circulation induced by ice-shelf basal melting affects the ocean response to future changes in surface winds. Therefore, models that do not represent ice-shelf cavities produce wrong warming patterns around Antarctica. A positive feedback between oceanic melting and grounding-line retreat has been identified and can increase melt rates by a factor of 2.5. These results are strong incentive to couple ocean and ice sheet models, although the projections proposed here are relatively idealized.To run SMB and surface melting projections, an atmospheric model with a fine representation of polar processes, including those related to the snowpack, is needed. MAR is found to be an appropriate tool to simulate the present-day surface climate in the Amundsen region. We find that none of the large climate modes of variability (ASL, SAM, ENSO) explains more than 50% of surface melt and SMB summer variance at the interannual timescale. The use of climate mode variability projections to estimate the future surface climate of West Antarctica is therefore not trivial.Forced by the CMIP5 multi-model mean under the RCP8.5 scenario, MAR predicts an increase of SMB by 30-40% for the end of the 21st century. This increase corresponds to 0.33 mm yr-1 of sea level drop down, which is higher than the current West Antarctic contribution of ~0.26 mm yr-1 from ice dynamics. Surface melt is also projected to increase by a factor of 5 to 15 over the Amundsen ice shelves, but most of it is projected to refreeze in the annual snow layer, so future melting should not have a strong contribution to SMB or hydrofracturing.To conclude we show that coupled ocean and ice sheet climate models are essential to simulate the future of Antarctica and Southern Ocean. A fine representation of surface melt and refreezing processes within the snowpack is also crucial as possible hydrofracturing is threatening in a warmer climate and it comes within a delicate equilibrium between snowfall, air temperature, and feedback related to albedo and humidity.
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Marion Donat-Magnin. Atmospheric variability in West Antarctica : impact on the ocean circulation and on theice-sheet surface mass balance. Ocean, Atmosphere. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAU032⟩. ⟨tel-02475556⟩

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