Four-decade record of pervasive grounding line retreat along the Bellingshausen margin of West Antarctica

Changes to the grounding line, where grounded ice starts to float, can be used as a remotely-sensed measure of ice-sheet susceptibility to ocean-forced dynamic thinning. Constraining this susceptibility is vital for predicting Antarctica's contribution to rising sea levels. We use Landsat imagery to monitor grounding line movement over four decades along the Bellingshausen margin of West Antarctica, an area little monitored despite potential for future ice losses. We show that ~65% of the grounding line retreated from 1990-2015, with pervasive and accelerating retreat in regions of fast ice flow and/or thinning ice shelves. Venable Ice Shelf confounds expectations in that despite extensive thinning, its grounding line has undergone negligible retreat. We present evidence that the ice shelf is currently pinned to a sub-ice topographic high which, if breached, could facilitate ice retreat into a significant inland basin, analogous to nearby Pine Island Glacier.

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