The future behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet depends to some extent on its current state of balance and its past history. The past history is primarily influenced by global climate changes, with some small amount of local feedback, and by sea-level changes generated primarily by the Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet changes, again with a small amount of feedback from the Antarctic ice sheet. An ice-sheet model which includes ice shelves has been used to model the Antarctic region and the whole Northern Hemisphere high-latitude region through the last ice-age cycle. For the climate forcing, the results from the global energy-balance model of Budd and Rayner (1990) are used. These are based on the Earth's orbital radiation changes with ice-sheet albedo feedback. Additional sensitivity studies are carried out for the amplitudes of the derived temperature changes and for changes in precipitation over the ice-sheets. For the Antarctic snow-accumulation changes, the results from the Voslok ice core are used with proportional changes over the rest of the ice sheet. For the sea-level variations, the results generated by the Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet changes provide the primary forcing, but account is also taken of the feedback effects from bed response under changing ice and ocean loading and from the Antarctic changes.
The results of the modelling provide a wide range of features for comparison with observations, such as the margins of maximum ice extent. For the Northern Hemisphere the results indicate that the peak mean temperature shift required for the ice-edge region is about -12°C, whereas outside the ice-sheet region this change is smaller but over the ice sheets it is larger. For the Antarctic region during the ice age the interior region decreases in thickness, due to lower accumulation, while the grounding-edge region expands and thickens due to the sea-level lowering. As a result, the derived present state of balance shows a positive region over most of inland East Antarctica, whereas coastal regions tend to be nearer to balance, with some slightly negative regions around some of the large ice shelves and coastal ice streams which are still adjusting slowly to the post-ice-age changes of sea level and accumulation rates.