The production of Antarctic Bottom Water is influenced by Ice Shelf Water which is formed due to the modification of shelf water masses under huge ice shelves. The coupling of inflow conditions, thermohaline processes at the ice shelf base and the sub-ice shelf circulation is studied with a two-dimensional thermohaline circulation model which has been developed for a section perpendicular to the ice shelf edge. Different boundary conditions appropriate to the Filchner Ice Shelf regime are considered. The model results indicate that, in general, shelf water is transported toward the grounding line, where at the ice shelf base melting occurs with a maximum rate of 1.5 my−1. Accumulation of ice takes place at the end of the melting zone close to the ice shelf edge with a rate on the order of 0.1 my−1. The location of this accumulation zone determines whether or not the density increase by salt rejection causes an upper circulation cell and the separation of the modified water mass from the ice shelf base at mid-range depth. At the ice shelf edge the simulated temperature, salinity, helium and δ18O values for the temperature minimum layer are typical for Ice Shelf Water. However the sub-ice shelf circulation is highly variable as well as sensitive to changes in boundary conditions. Moderate changes in the characteristics of the inflowing water or in sea-floor topography may double the intensity of the circulation. Non-linear processes in the accumulation zone cause variabilities which can be described by an ice shelf edge oscillator influencing the entire circulation regime.