2010-2011 Antarctic

Geochemistry and Microbiology of the Extreme Aquatic Environment in Lake Vida, East Antarctica

Lake Vida is the largest lake of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, with an approximately 20 m ice cover overlaying a brine of unknown depth with at least 7 times seawater salinity and temperatures below -10 degrees C year-round. The research proposes to enter, for the first time the main brine body below the thick ice of Lake Vida and perform in situ measurements, collect samples of the brine column, and collect sediment cores from the lake bottom for detailed geochemical and microbiological analyses. The results will allow the characterization of present and past life in the lake, assessment of modern and past sedimentary processes, and determination of the lake's history. The research will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team that will uncover the biogeochemical processes associated with a non-photosynthetic microbial community isolated for a significant period of time. This research will address diversity, adaptive mechanisms and evolutionary processes in the context of the physical evolution of the environment of Lake Vida.

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).

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 the 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.

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.

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.

Instrument Development of the Askaryan Radio Array, A Large-scale Radio Cherenkov Neutrino Detector at the South Pole

This project will use the Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill for testing and drilling up to 10 holes of 200 meters depth and 4-inch diameter in support of Askaryan Radio Array project activities.