Upcoming Fieldwork

2020-2021 Antarctic

  • Ground Geophysics Survey of Thwaites Glacier

    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. The objectives of the project are to learn whether basal conditions allow for rapid retreat of the Thwaites Glacier grounding line or whether retreat may re-stabilize near its current grounding line. These objectives will be achieved by using dedicated ice-flow modeling to guide targeted field surveys and experiments over two seasons, and to measure the most important unknown quantities and incorporate them into the models. Numerical models will be used to generate hypotheses for basal conditions that are testable through geophysical surveys and to project future behavior of Thwaites Glacier after assimilating the resulting data. The geophysical methods include seismic, radar, gravity, and electrical surveys that together will allow for a fuller characterization of the bed. The project will conduct field surveys in areas representative of different parts of the glacier, including across the margins, near the grounding line, and along the central axis of the glacier into its catchment. The Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill and Small Hot Water Drill will be used to create the shot holes required for the seismic measurements.

    Point of Contact:

    Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Penn State University. Leigh Stearns, University of Kansas. Richard Alley, Penn State University. Knut Christianson, University of Washington. Lucas Zoet, University of Wisconsin

    Schedule: 11/15/2020 - 01/15/2021 (estimated)
  • 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.

    Point of Contact:

    Brent Goehring, Tulane University. Gregory Balco, Berkeley Geochronology Center. Brenda Hall, University of Maine. Seth Campbell, University of Maine.

    Schedule: 11/15/2020 - 01/15/2021 (estimated)
  • 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.

    Point of Contact:

    John Higgins, Princeton University.

    Schedule: 11/1/2020 - 1/1/2021 (estimated)
  • 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.

    Point of Contact:

    Matthew Zimmerer, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Jerry Mitrovica, Harvard University. Seth Campbell, University of Maine

    Schedule: 11/1/2020 - 1/1/2021 (estimated)
    Equipment: Winkie Drill

2021 Arctic

  • Peru: Investigation of High Andean Snow and Ice Chemistry to Improve Paleoclimatic Reconstruction and Enhance Climate Prediction

    This research examines past and modern change in climate over Peru and Bolivia using snow and ice samples to improve predictions for future climate. Instrumental records of climate and environmental variability from the region are sparse, yet ice cores from Central Andean glaciers provide a source of high-resolution records of past climate dynamics and chemistry of the atmosphere extending back centuries to millennia. Climate reconstructions from ice cores can provide added temporal and spatial context to existing multi-proxy climate reconstructions to help assess the impact of natural and human-induced physical and chemical climate change at the storm-scales that impact day to day and season to season events, and in the process, develop analogs for predicting future change. The goal of this research is to combine advances in ice core sampling technology, knowledge of Andean storm event meteorology, cyberinfrastructure, and climate modeling and analysis to fresh snow, snowpits and ice core data from Peru and Bolivia. Using the Thermal Drill, this project will recover approximately 140 meters of snow/firn/ice core from the summit region of Quelccaya during the project’s 2020 field season.

    Point of Contact:

    Paul Mayewski, University of Maine. Anton Seimon, Appalachian State University

    Schedule: July/August (estimated)
  • Greenland: Climate Drivers and Ancient History in Greenland Ice

    Using the Foro 400 Drill, this project will drill a 400-450 meter long ice core from the Tunu region of northeast Greenland and analyze the core for a broad range of elements, chemical species, and isotopes to reconstruct climate and human impacts during the past ~4000 years. An ice-penetrating radar survey extending 40-km upstream along the ice-flow line upstream of the ice-core site will support interpretation of the aerosol and water isotope records, as well as understanding of any possible impacts from changes in deposition processes upstream. The goal of this research is to develop accurately dated, high-resolution, ice-core records of a broad range of elements and chemical species to expand and extend recently identified, causal linkages between (1) ancient societies; (2) volcanism and hydroclimate; and (3) wars, plagues, social unrest, and economic activity.

    Point of Contact:

    Joseph McConnell, Desert Research Institute.

    Schedule: 5/29/2021 - 7/1/2021 (estimated)
    Equipment: Foro 400 Drill
  • Greenland: Sewer Outfall Bulb for Summit Station, Greenland

    For this engineering project at Summit Station, Greenland, the large-diameter Blue Ice Drill will be used to produce a 11.3” diameter hole to 30 m depth. The engineers will use the borehole to create a bulb at depth for a sewer outfall for the station.

    Point of Contact:

    Zoe Courville, CRREL and Dartmouth College

    Schedule: late July/August (estimated)
    Equipment: Blue Ice Drill
  • Southeast Greenland Surface Mass Balance

    Using the Stampfli Drill and a hand auger and Sidewinder, this project will drill shallow firn cores from 2-3 sites in Southeast Greenland. The goal of the project is to investigate decadal variability in accumulation and surface melt intensity and investigate the impact of this variability on Helheim Glacier behavior. The researchers plan to revisit two sites that they last drilled in 2003 as well as an additional lower elevation site as time/resources allow. All drilling will be done during day trips from Kulusuk supported by Twin Otter.

    Point of Contact:

    Sarah Das, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    Schedule: 4/14/2021 - 4/30/2021 (estimated)
  • North America: Sediment Transport Mechanisms and Geomorphic Processes Associated with Shore Ice along Cold Climate Coastlines

    This project will test the hypothesis that limited or variable shore ice cover, when compared to consistent shore ice cover, results in enhanced storm-induced coastal erosion and damage to coastal infrastructure. Cold climate coastlines are highly vulnerable to reduced winter ice cover in response to climate change. The dynamics of how reduced ice cover influences coastal evolution is poorly understood which inhibits accurate forecasting of future coastal response in cold climates. Researchers on this project hope to improve our understanding of how sediment interacts with shore ice as well as the resulting coastal landscape change. The first part of the project involves laboratory experiments aimed at studying the physics of sediment and ice interactions. The second part of the project will gather field measurements that use the laboratory measurements as a basis to investigate how cold climate coastlines naturally respond to the shore ice. Using a SIPRE Hand Auger, the researchers will collect ice core samples of 1-3 meters in length on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior to inspect debris entrained within the ice for comparison with the laboratory experiments. This research will result in a model that will help explain how reduced and variable winter shore ice cover alters the coastal landscape, which will help coastal managers proactively plan for future climate change impacts.

    Point of Contact:

    Lucas Zoet, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ethan Theuerkauf, Michigan State University.

    Schedule: 12/01/2020 - 03/31/2021
    Equipment: SIPRE Hand Auger

2021-2022 Antarctic

  • Ground Geophysics Survey of Thwaites Glacier

    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. The objectives of the project are to learn whether basal conditions allow for rapid retreat of the Thwaites Glacier grounding line or whether retreat may re-stabilize near its current grounding line. These objectives will be achieved by using dedicated ice-flow modeling to guide targeted field surveys and experiments over two seasons, and to measure the most important unknown quantities and incorporate them into the models. Numerical models will be used to generate hypotheses for basal conditions that are testable through geophysical surveys and to project future behavior of Thwaites Glacier after assimilating the resulting data. The geophysical methods include seismic, radar, gravity, and electrical surveys that together will allow for a fuller characterization of the bed. The project will conduct field surveys in areas representative of different parts of the glacier, including across the margins, near the grounding line, and along the central axis of the glacier into its catchment. The Rapid Air Movement (RAM) Drill and Small Hot Water Drill will be used to create the shot holes required for the seismic measurements.

    Point of Contact:

    Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Penn State University. Leigh Stearns, University of Kansas. Richard Alley, Penn State University. Knut Christianson, University of Washington. Lucas Zoet, University of Wisconsin

    Schedule: 11/15/2021 - 01/15/2022 (estimated)

2022 Arctic

  • Ice Core and Firn Aquifer Studies at Combatant Col, British Columbia, Canada

    This project aims to recover an ice core at Combatant Col, BC, Canada to reconstruct hydroclimate variability over the last 500 years. Previous work at Combatant Col demonstrates preservation of annual stratigraphy, water-isotope and geochemical records reflecting important climate and environmental variables including atmospheric circulation, snow accumulation, fire activity, and trans-Pacific dust transport. Existing North Pacific ice cores are located exclusively in Alaska and the Yukon. Combatant Col significantly expands the spatial coverage of ice core records, while simultaneously providing a unique record of hydroclimate in southwestern British Columbia. This project will conduct detailed radar surveys and ice-flow modeling to better understand the glaciological setting and to select the optimal site for drilling. A core to bedrock will be retrieved using the Electrothermal Drill. Analysis of the ice core will include water isotope ratios and visual stratigraphy. In combination with high-resolution radar imaging, the core from Combatant Col will be used to determine whether the observed firn-aquifer at this site (liquid water is stored perennially above the firn-ice transition) has been a persistent feature at the site, or whether it has formed recently, and to determine its impact on glacier energy balance and dynamics. The core will be archived and made available for additional analyses by the ice core research community.

    Point of Contact:

    Peter Neff, University of Washington. Eric Steig, University of Washington.

    Schedule: June - July 2022 (estimated)
  • GreenDrill: The response of the northern Greenland Ice Sheet to Arctic Warmth - Direct constrains from sub-ice bedrock

    The goal of this project is to gather new data to test the sensitivity of the northern Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) and its potential to contribute to sea level rise in the future. Specifically, data from the GreenDrill project will better constrain the response of the GrIS to past periods of warmth and address the hypothesis that the northern GrIS is more sensitive to Arctic warming than the southern GrIS. Using the Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill and the Winkie Drill, the team will drill through the ice at sites in northern Greenland, sample bedrock obtained from those cores, and analyze a suite of cosmogenic nuclides (Beryllium-10, Aluminum-26, Chlorine-36, Carbon-14, and Neon-21) that can act as signatures of changes to the GrIS margin. These data will deliver direct observations of periods when the GrIS was substantially smaller than today and ice sheet margins retreated inland. Results will be incorporated into a numerical ice sheet model with a built-in cosmogenic nuclide module to identify plausible ice sheet histories. The modeling experiments will help understand the mechanisms and climate forcing underlying past periods of ice sheet retreat and help inform predictions of the future. Based on the melting scenarios, a first-order map of sea level rise fingerprints and inundation scenarios for major port cities will be produced.

    Point of Contact:

    Joerg Schaefer, Columbia University. Jason Briner, University of Buffalo.

    Schedule: TBD