Motorway-sized troughs and channels carved into Antarctica's continental shelves by glaciers thousands of years ago could help scientists to predict future sea-level rise according to a report in the journal Geology this month (May).
Using sonar technology from onboard ships, scientists from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the German Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) captured the most extensive, continuous set of images of the seafloor around the Amundsen Sea embayment ever taken. This region is a major drain point of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and considered by some scientists to be the most likely site for the initiation of major ice sheet collapse.
The sonar images reveal an 'imprint' of the Antarctic ice sheet as it was at the end of the last ice age around 10 thousand years ago. The extent of ice covering the continent was much larger than it is today. The seabed troughs and channels that are now exposed provide new clues about the speed and flow of the ice sheet. They indicate that the controlling mechanisms that move ice towards the coast and into the sea are more complex than previously thought.
Lead author Rob Larter from British Antarctic Survey said, "One of the greatest uncertainties for predicting future sea-level rise is Antarctica's likely contribution. It is very important for scientists and our society to understand fully how polar ice flows into the sea. Indeed, this issue was highlighted in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Our research tells us more about how the ice sheet responded to warming at the end of the last ice age, and how processes at the ice sheet bed controlled its flow. This is a big step toward understanding of how the ice sheets are likely to respond to future warming.'
Issued by British Antarctic Survey Press Office: British Antarctic Survey media contact: Linda Capper, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221 448; email: LMCA@bas.ac.uk; mobile 07714 233744
Alfred Wegener Press Office contact: Margarete Pauls, Tel: +49(471) 4831-1180; email: Margarete.Pauls@awi.de
Jacqueline Martin, Tel: +49(471) 4831-1112; email: Jacqueline.Martin@awi.de
Interview opportunities with BAS science contact: Dr Rob Larter, Tel: +44 (0)1223 221573; email RDLA@bas.ac.uk
Interview opportunities with AWI science contact: Dr Karsten Gohl, Tel: +49(471)4831-1361; email: Karsten.Gohl@awi.de
For the past 20 years scientists studying the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have used a range of technologies, including satellite images, ice-penetrating radar and other techniques to monitor the movement of ice as it flows from Antarctica's interior towards the coast.
Science teams often work in remote and extreme locations to measure change in their attempts to understand their likely contribution to global sea-level rise.
This work is the result of a collaboration between scientists onboard two research cruises in 2006 – Jan-Feb BAS ship RRS James Clark Ross; Feb-Mar onboard AWI ship RV Polarstern. Ship-borne research cruises provide crucial information about Antarctica's ice sheet and climate history. This data combined with that from other satellite and ground-based studies help provide answers to big environmental questions that are relevant to people all over the world.The area of the Amundsen Sea embayment surveyed was 9950 km2. This is equal to -
The Antarctic ice sheet retreated to near its present limit around 10 thousand years ago. It is the layer of ice up to 5000 m thick covering the Antarctic continent. It is formed from snow falling in the interior of the Antarctic which compacts into ice. The ice sheet slowly moves towards the coast, eventually breaking away as icebergs which gradually melt into the sea.
The ice sheet covering East Antarctica is very stable, because it lies on rock that is above sea level and is thought unlikely to collapse. The West Antarctic is less stable, because it sits on rock below sea level.
An ice shelf is a thick (100-1000 m), floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface. Ice shelves are found in Antarctica, Greenland and Canada only.
Just as rivers collect water and allow it to flow downhill a glacier is actually a "river" of ice. A glacier flows much more slowly than river. Rivers of ice within ice sheets account for most of the drainage into the oceans.
The relatively shallow (generally up to 200 meters) seabed surrounding a continent where the depth gradually increases before it plunges into the deep ocean. Around Antarctica the continental shelf is up to 1600 m deep as a result of millions of years of glacial erosion. The deepest parts of the Antarctic continental shelf are near the present ice margin and depths generally decrease offshore.
The Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a world leader in research into global environmental issues. With an annual budget of around £45 million, five Antarctic Research Stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft, BAS undertakes an interdisciplinary research programme and plays an active and influential role in Antarctic affairs. BAS has joint research projects with over 40 UK universities and has more than 120 national and international collaborations. It is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council. More information about the work of the Survey can be found at: www.antarctica.ac.uk
The Wadden Sea and the Elbe Studied with Zeppelin, Drones and Research Ships
19.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung
FotoQuest GO: Citizen science campaign targets land-use change in Austria
19.09.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
20.09.2017 | Life Sciences
20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy