The Antarctic shelf seas are a climatically and ecologically important region, and are at present receiving increasing amounts of freshwater from the melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet and its fringing ice shelves1,2 , primarily around the Antarctic Peninsula and the Amudsen Sea. In response, the surface ocean salinity in this region has declined in past decades3–9 . Here, we assess the effects of the freshwater input on regional sea level using satellite measurements of sea surface height (for months with no sea-ice cover) and a global ocean circulation model. We find that from 1992 to 2011, sea-level rise along the Antarctic coast is at least 2 ± 0.8mmyr−1 greater than the regional mean for the Southern Ocean south of 50◦ S. On the basis of the model simulations, we conclude that this sea-level rise is almost entirely related to steric adjustment, rather than changes in local ocean mass, with a halosteric rise in the upper ocean and thermosteric contributions at depth. We estimate that an excess freshwater input of 430 ± 230Gt yr−1 is required to explain the observed sea-level rise. We conclude that accelerating discharge from the Antarctic Ice Sheet has had a pronounced and widespread impact on the adjacent subpolar seas over the past two decades.
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