Changes in area, flow speed and structure of southwest Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves in the 21st century

Tom Holt*, Neil F. Glasser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Since the mid-20th century, ice shelves around the Antarctic Peninsula have declined in extent and thickness, and some have shown signs of structural instability. Here, using satellite imagery from 1999/2000 to 2019/20 (Landsat 7 and 8, Sentinel-2 and ASTER), we measure areal changes, calculate surface flow speeds, and quantify structural changes of Bach, Stange and George VI ice shelves, located in the southwest Antarctic Peninsula. We recorded a total area loss of 797.5 km2 from 2009/10 to 2019/20, though spatial and temporal patterns varied at individual ice fronts. Flow speeds remained largely stable over the observation periods, but notable acceleration was calculated for Bach Ice Shelf, and at the northern and southern extents of George VI Ice Shelf. Open fractures widened and lengthened between 2009/10 and 2019/20 on all three ice shelves. We conclude that Stange Ice Shelf is stable, and not under any immediate threat of enhanced recession. Continued ice-mass loss and consequential speed up of George VI South may cause further fracturing and destabilisation in the coming decades. Of more immediate concern are the glaciological changes noted for Bach Ice Shelf and George VI North; substantial areas of stabilising ice have already, or will soon be removed, that may lead to enhanced recession within the next decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-945
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number271
Early online date23 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2022


  • Antarctic glaciology
  • ice shelves
  • ice velocity
  • remote sensing
  • structural glaciology


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