The Sensitivity of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to a Changing Climate: Past, Present, and Future

T. L. Noble, E. J. Rohling, A. R.A. Aitken, H. C. Bostock, Z. Chase, N. Gomez, L. M. Jong, Matt A. King, A. N. Mackintosh, F. S. McCormack, Robert M. McKay, L. Menviel, S. J. Phipps, M. E. Weber, C. J. Fogwill, B. Gayen, N. R. Golledge, D. E. Gwyther, A. Mc C. Hogg, Y. M. MartosB. Pena-Molino, J. Roberts, T. van de Flierdt, Trevor J. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) is out of equilibrium with the current anthropogenic-enhanced climate forcing. Paleoenvironmental records and ice sheet models reveal that the AIS has been tightly coupled to the climate system during the past and indicate the potential for accelerated and sustained Antarctic ice mass loss into the future. Modern observations by contrast suggest that the AIS has only just started to respond to climate change in recent decades. The maximum projected sea level contribution from Antarctica to 2100 has increased significantly since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, although estimates continue to evolve with new observational and theoretical advances. This review brings together recent literature highlighting the progress made on the known processes and feedbacks that influence the stability of the AIS. Reducing the uncertainty in the magnitude and timing of the future sea level response to AIS change requires a multidisciplinary approach that integrates knowledge of the interactions between the ice sheet, solid Earth, atmosphere, and ocean systems and across time scales of days to millennia. We start by reviewing the processes affecting AIS mass change, from atmospheric and oceanic processes acting on short time scales (days to decades), through to ice processes acting on intermediate time scales (decades to centuries) and the response to solid Earth interactions over longer time scales (decades to millennia). We then review the evidence of AIS changes from the Pliocene to the present and consider the projections of global sea level rise and their consequences. We highlight priority research areas required to improve our understanding of the processes and feedbacks governing AIS change.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019RG000663
JournalReviews of Geophysics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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