Expeditions

U.S. ice scientists travel to Antarctica, Greenland, and mountain ranges around the world to conduct fieldwork in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. Below you can find information about current and upcoming fieldwork as well as completed fieldwork.

 

Completed Fieldwork

2009-2010 Antarctic

Antarctica: Exploring a 2 Million + Year Ice Climate Archive-Allan Hills Blue Ice Area (2MBIA)

2MBIA is a United States blue ice coring and trenching project in East Antarctica sponsored by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs. The purpose of the 2MBIA project is to demonstrate that relatively inexpensive trenching for collection of samples of ice as old as 2.5-2.8 million years (Ma) is possible at the site located one hour by airplane from U.S. McMurdo Station. The major objectives of the project are to generate an absolute timescale for the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area (BIA), and then to reconstruct details of past climate changes and greenhouse gas concentrations for certain time periods back to 2.5 Ma.

Antarctica: West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide Ice Core

West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide is a United States deep ice coring project in West Antarctica funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The purpose of the WAIS Divide project is to collect a deep ice core covering approximately one glacial cycle from the ice divide in central West Antarctica. The WAIS Divide ice core will provide Antarctic records of environmental change for the last ~100,000 years with high time resolution and will be the first Southern Hemisphere climate record of comparable time resolution and duration to the Greenland GISP2, GRIP, North GRIP, and NEEM ice cores.

Antarctica: Constraining the Mass-Balance Deficit of the Amundsen Coast's Glaciers

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing mass, in large part because of rapid thinning of the Amundsen Coast glaciers. While warmer ocean temperatures may drive this thinning, the large uncertainties in the current mass balance estimates largely arise from poor knowledge of the snowfall accumulation over Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith, Pope and Kohler glaciers. The objective of this International Polar Year project is to determine accumulation rates in this vastly under-sampled region to remove the large uncertainties in current mass balance estimates. The first year (2009/10) field effort will collect a series of airborne accumulation radar profiles to map internal layers and ice thickness. Near-surface radar layers will be dated using age-depth profiles derived from shallow ice cores that will be drilled during the second season (2010/11).

Antarctica: A "Horizontal Ice Core" for Large-Volume Samples of the Past Atmosphere

This project will develop a precise gas-based chronology for an archive of large-volume samples of the ancient atmosphere, which will enable ultra-trace gas measurements that are currently precluded by sample size limitations of ice cores. The project will provide a critical test of the "clathrate hypothesis" that methane clathrates contributed to the two abrupt atmospheric methane concentration increases during the last deglaciation 15,000 and 11,000 years ago. The project will use large volumes of ice to measure carbon-14 on past atmospheric methane across the abrupt events.

Antarctica: Ancient Buried Ice in Antarctica

A small team of earth scientists and engineers are using a specialized drill to reach buried ice deposits in Beacon Valley - a part of the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. Buried ice deposits represent a new and potentially far-reaching archive of Earth's atmosphere and climate. If the drill operations are successful, the team will retrieve ice cores, which will enable the research team to gain access to a record of atmospheric and climatic change extending back for many millions of years. The ice being drilled is estimated to be several million years in age, making it by far the oldest ice yet known on this planet.

Antarctica: Amundsen Basin Seismic Project

This project studies ice sheet history and dynamics on the Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier in the Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The project utilizes a combination of GPS, ice coring, radar, and seismic sensing to document conditions at the base of the ice sheet. Results from the project will contribute to an improved understanding of the impact of changes in polar ice sheets on sea level and climate.