Foehn winds at Pine Island Glacier and their role in ice changes

Diana Francis*, Ricardo Fonseca, Kyle S. Mattingly, Stef Lhermitte, Catherine Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Pine Island Glacier (PIG) has recently experienced increased ice loss that has mostly been attributed to basal melt and ocean ice dynamics. However, atmospheric forcing also plays a role in the ice mass budget, as besides lower-latitude warm air intrusions, the steeply sloping terrain that surrounds the glacier promotes frequent Foehn winds. An investigation of 41 years of reanalysis data reveals that Foehn occurs more frequently from June to October, with Foehn episodes typically lasting about 5 to 9 h. An analysis of the surface mass balance indicated that their largest impact is on the surface sublimation, which is increased by about 1.43 mm water equivalent (w.e.) per day with respect to no-Foehn events. Blowing snow makes roughly the same contribution as snowfall, around 0.34–0.36 mm w.e. d−1, but with the opposite sign. The melting rate is 3 orders of magnitude smaller than the surface sublimation rate. The negative phase of the Antarctic oscillation and the positive phase of the Southern Annular Mode promote the occurrence of Foehn at PIG. A particularly strong event took place on 9–11 November 2011, when 10 m winds speeds in excess of 20 m s−1 led to downward sensible heat fluxes higher than 75 W m−2 as they descended the mountainous terrain. Surface sublimation and blowing-snow sublimation dominated the surface mass balance, with magnitudes of up to 0.13 mm w.e. h−1. Satellite data indicated an hourly surface melting area exceeding 100 km2. Our results stress the importance of the atmospheric forcing on the ice mass balance at PIG.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3041–3062
Number of pages22
JournalThe Cryosphere
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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