Intrusion of warm surface water beneath the McMurdo ice shelf, Antarctica

A. A. Stern, M. S. Dinniman, V. Zagorodnov, S. W. Tyler, D. M. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Key Points There is an annual intrusion of warm water beneath the McMurdo ice shelf This intrusion causes elevated melt rates near to the ice front The intruding water is surface water originating west of the Ross Sea Polynya A 6 month temperature record collected below McMurdo Ice Shelf in 2011-2012 shows the temporal and spatial structure of the summertime warm water signal that penetrates beneath the ice shelf. The strength and duration of the warm water intrusion suggest an annual melt rate at Windless Bight of 0.71 m/yr. A Ross Sea numerical model demonstrates a seasonal warm water pathway leading from the west side of the Ross Sea Polynya (RSP) toward McMurdo Sound. The warm water enters McMurdo Sound, subducts beneath the ice shelf and causes accelerated summer melting. Temperature data were recorded using Distributed Temperature Sensing fiber optics, which gives a vertical temperature profile at a 1 m vertical resolution. This study constitutes one of the first successful implementations of this technology in Polar Regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7036-7048
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • McMurdo Ice Shelf
  • McMurdo Sound
  • ice shelf melting
  • mode 3 intrusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Oceanography


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