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18 year record of circum-Antarctic landfast sea ice distribution allows detailed baseline characterisation, reveals trends and variability


Abstract. Landfast sea ice (fast ice) is an important though poorly-understood component of the cryosphere on the Antarctic continental shelf, where it plays a key role in atmosphere-ocean-ice sheet interaction and coupled ecological and biogeochemical processes. Here, we present a first in-depth baseline analysis of variability and change in circum-Antarctic fast-ice distribution (including its relationship to bathymetry), based on a new high-resolution satellite-derived time series for the period 2000 to 2018. This reveals a) an overall trend of −882 ± 824 km²/y (−0.19 ± 0.18 %/y); and b) eight distinct regions in terms of fast-ice coverage and modes of formation. Of these, four exhibit positive trends over the 18 y period and four negative. Positive trends are seen in East Antarctica and in the Bellingshausen sea, with this region claiming the largest positive trend of +1,198 ± 359 km²/y (+1.10 ± 0.35 %/y). The four negative trends predominantly occur in West Antarctica, with the largest negative trend of −1,206 ± 277 km²/y (−1.78 ± 0.41 %/y) occurring in the Victoria and Oates Lands region in the eastern Ross Sea. All trends are significant. This new baseline analysis represents a significant advance in our knowledge of the current state of both the global cryosphere and the complex Antarctic coastal system that is vulnerable to climate variability and change. It will also inform a wide range of other studies.

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