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Large interannual variability in supraglacial lakes around East Antarctica

Arthur, Jennifer F. and Stokes, Chris R. and Jamieson, Stewart S. R. and Rachel Carr, J. and Leeson, Amber A. and Verjans, Vincent (2022) 'Large interannual variability in supraglacial lakes around East Antarctica.', Nature Communications, 13 (1).


Antarctic supraglacial lakes (SGLs) have been linked to ice shelf collapse and the subsequent acceleration of inland ice flow, but observations of SGLs remain relatively scarce and their interannual variability is largely unknown. This makes it difficult to assess whether some ice shelves are close to thresholds of stability under climate warming. Here, we present the first observations of SGLs across the entire East Antarctic Ice Sheet over multiple melt seasons (2014–2020). Interannual variability in SGL volume is >200% on some ice shelves, but patterns are highly asynchronous. More extensive, deeper SGLs correlate with higher summer (December-January-February) air temperatures, but comparisons with modelled melt and runoff are complex. However, we find that modelled January melt and the ratio of November firn air content to summer melt are important predictors of SGL volume on some potentially vulnerable ice shelves, suggesting large increases in SGLs should be expected under future atmospheric warming.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date accepted:14 March 2022
Date deposited:16 May 2022
Date of first online publication:31 March 2022
Date first made open access:16 May 2022

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