Reconstructed snow accumulation rate observations from five new firn cores show a statistically significant negative trend in accumulation rates over the past four decades across the central West Antarctic ice sheet. A negative temporal trend in accumulation is unexpected in light of rising surface temperatures and simulations run by GCMs. Both the magnitude of the mean accumulation rates and the range of interannual variability observed in the new records compares favorably to older records, suggesting that the new accumulation rate records may serve as a regional proxy for recent temporal trends in West Antarctic accumulation rates. The observed negative trend is likely the result of Southern Hemisphere high-latitude internal atmospheric dynamics, dominated by changes in the austral fall season. The well-documented positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode causes a low pressure center to form over the Amundsen Sea, which in turn produces lower accumulation rates across the western portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The new accumulation rate records are compared to several models/reanalyses to test the skill of simulated accumulation rate predictions. While the models/reanalyses and the new observations agree well in both mean and variability, the simulated records do not capture the full negative trend observed in the reconstructed records.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Antarctica, West Antarctica, WAIS Divide, Accumulation rate, Southern Annular Mode, SAM, firn core, ice core

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Geology Commons