2021-2022 Antarctic

Geological History Constraints on the Magnitude of Grounding Line Retreat in the Thwaites Glacier System

This project contributes to the joint initiative launched by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to substantially improve decadal and longer-term projections of ice loss and sea-level rise originating from Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. This project will provide a record of regional sea-level change by establishing chronologies for raised marine beaches as well as the timing and duration of periods of retreat of Thwaites Glacier during the past 10,000 years by sampling and dating bedrock presently covered by Thwaites Glacier via subglacial drilling. Together with climatic and oceanographic conditions from other records, these will provide boundary conditions for past-to-present model simulations as well as those used to predict future glacier changes under a range of climate scenarios. The project will utilize the Stampfli 2-Inch Drill and Winkie Drill to obtain subglacial bedrock from sites where ice thickness is dynamically linked to grounding-line position in the Thwaites system (specifically in the Hudson Mountains, and near Mount Murphy). Observation of significant cosmogenic-nuclide concentrations--the team will primarily measure Beryllium-10 and in situ Carbon-14--in these samples would provide direct, unambiguous evidence for past episodes of thinning linked to grounding-line retreat as well as constraints on their timing and duration.

Early and Mid Pleistocene Climate Archives from the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area

Bubbles of ancient air trapped in ice cores have been used to directly reconstruct atmospheric composition, and its links to Antarctic and global climate, over the last 800,000 years. Previous field expeditions to the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area, Antarctica, have recovered ice cores that extend as far back as 2.7 million years, by far the oldest polar ice samples yet recovered. These ice cores extend direct observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane concentrations and indirect records of Antarctic climate into a period of Earth's climate history that represents a plausible geologic analogue to future anthropogenic climate change. Through this project, the team will return to the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area to recover additional ice cores that date to 2 million years or older. The 4-Inch Drill and Blue Ice Drill will be used to recover the ice cores. The climate records developed from these ice cores will provide new insights into the chemical composition of the atmosphere and Antarctic climate during times of comparable or even greater warmth than the present day. Project results will help answer questions about issues associated with anthropogenic change including the relationship between temperature change and the mass balance of Antarctic ice and the relationship between atmospheric greenhouse gases and global climate change.

Constraining West Antarctic Ice Sheet Elevation during the last Interglacial

This project will collect a novel dataset to determine how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) responded to a warmer climate during the last interglacial period (~125,000 years ago) by reconstructing the glacial history at the Mt. Waesche volcano in Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica. The researchers will use the Winkie Drill to drill through the ice sheet and recover bedrock that can be analyzed for its surface exposure history to help determine when the surface became overridden by the ice sheet. Reconstructing WAIS geometry when the ice sheet was smaller than present is difficult, and data are lacking because the evidence lies beneath the present ice sheet. The scientists will use the Winkie Drill to drill through the ice sheet and recover bedrock that can be analyzed for its surface exposure history to help determine when the surface became overridden by the ice sheet. The research will provide constraints on the past maximum and minimum spatial extent of WAIS during the last glacial-interglacial cycle.

Field Validation of ICESat-2 at Western Thwaites

Using the IDDO Hand Auger and Sidewinder, this project will measure firn density at three sites up to 40 meters deep along the Thwaites grounding zone. The project’s purpose is robust validation of the ability of ICESat-2 to estimate ice mass change at Western Thwaites, a rapidly changing ice shelf. One of the key challenges with understanding ice mass change is in understanding firn density. The fieldwork is a component of the Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level (MELT) project to measure the overall ice mass balance of Thwaites Glacier.