Stable water isotopes and accumulation rates in the Union Glacier region, Ellsworth Mountains, West Antarctica, over the last 35 years

Kirstin Hoffmann, Francisco Fernandoy, Hanno Meyer, Elizabeth R. Thomas, Marcelo Aliaga, Dieter Tetzner, Johannes Freitag, Thomas Opel, Jorge Arigony-Neto, Christian Florian Göbel, Ricardo Jaña, Delia Rodríguez Oroz, Rebecca Tuckwell, Emily Ludlow, Joseph R. Mcconnell, Christoph Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Antarctica is well known to be highly susceptible to atmospheric and oceanic warming. However, due to the lack of long-term and in situ meteorological observations, little is known about the magnitude of the warming and the meteorological conditions in the intersection region between the Antarctic Peninsula (AP), the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). Here we present new stable water isotope data (δ18O, δD, d) and accumulation rates from firn cores in the Union Glacier (UG) region, located in the Ellsworth Mountains at the northern edge of the WAIS. The firn core stable oxygen isotopes and the d excess exhibit no statistically significant trend for the period 1980-2014, suggesting that regional changes in near-surface air temperature and moisture source variability have been small during the last 35 years. Backward trajectory modelling revealed the Weddell Sea sector, Coats Land and Dronning Maud Land (DML) to be the main moisture source regions for the study site throughout the year. We found that mean annual δ18O (δD) values in the UG region are negatively correlated with sea ice concentrations (SICs) in the northern Weddell Sea but not influenced by large-scale modes of climate variability such as the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Only mean annual d-excess values show a weak positive correlation with the SAM. On average annual snow accumulation in the UG region amounts to 0.245 m w.e. a-1 in 1980-2014 and has slightly decreased during this period. It is only weakly related to sea ice conditions in the Weddell Sea sector and not correlated with SAM and ENSO. We conclude that neither the rapid warming nor the large increases in snow accumulation observed on the AP and in West Antarctica during the last decades have extended inland to the Ellsworth Mountains. Hence, the UG region, although located at the northern edge of the WAIS and relatively close to the AP, exhibits rather stable climate characteristics similar to those observed in East Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-904
Number of pages24
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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