Antarctic Ice Mass Balance from GRACE

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Yvonne L Firing, Carmen Boening, David N Wiese, Michael M Watkins, Nicole Schlegel and Eric Y Larour, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
The Antarctic ice mass balance and rates of change of ice mass over the past decade are analyzed based on observations from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, in the form of JPL RL05M mascon solutions. Surface mass balance (SMB) fluxes from ERA-Interim and other atmospheric reanalyses successfully account for the seasonal GRACE-measured mass variability, and explain 70-80% of the continent-wide mass variance at interannual time scales. Trends in the residual (GRACE mass - SMB accumulation) mass time series in different Antarctic drainage basins are consistent with time-mean ice discharge rates based on radar-derived ice velocities and thicknesses. GRACE also resolves accelerations in regional ice mass change rates, including increasing rates of mass gain in East Antarctica and accelerating ice mass loss in West Antarctica. The observed East Antarctic mass gain is only partially explained by anomalously large SMB events in the second half of the record, potentially implying that ice discharge rates are also decreasing in this region. Most of the increasing mass loss rate in West Antarctica, meanwhile, is explained by decreasing SMB (principally precipitation) over this time period, part of the characteristic decadal variability in regional SMB. The residual acceleration of 2+/-1 Gt/yr, which is concentrated in the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) basins, represents the contribution from increasing ice discharge rates. An Ice Sheet System Model (ISSM) run with constant ocean forcing and stationary grounding lines both underpredicts the largest trends in the ASE and produces negligible acceleration or interannual variability in discharge, highlighting the potential importance of ocean forcing for setting ice discharge rates at interannual to decadal time scales.