The science expedition will be the most extensive ever deployed to Pine Island Glacier. It is the area of the ice-covered continent that concerns scientists most because of its potential to cause a rapid rise in sea level. Satellite measurements have shown this area is losing ice and surrounding glaciers are thinning, raising the possibility the ice could flow rapidly out to sea.
Robert Bindschadler, an emeritus glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, was the first person to ever walk on the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, in January 2008. Credit: NASA
The multidisciplinary group of 13 scientists, led by Robert Bindschadler, emeritus glaciologist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will depart from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica in mid-December and spend six weeks on the ice shelf. During their stay, they will use a combination of traditional tools and sophisticated new oceanographic instruments to measure the shape of the cavity underneath the ice shelf and determine how streams of warm ocean water enter it, move toward the very bottom of the glacier and melt its underbelly.
"The project aims to determine the underlying causes behind why Pine Island Glacier has begun to flow more rapidly and discharge more ice into the ocean," said Scott Borg, director of NSF's Division of Antarctic Sciences, the group that coordinates all U.S. research in Antarctica. "This could have a significant impact on global sea-level rise over the coming century."
In January 2008, Bindschadler was the first person to set foot on this isolated corner of Antarctica as part of initial reconnaissance for the expedition. Scientists had doubted it was even possible to reach the crevasse-ridden ice shelf. Bindschadler used satellite imagery to identify an area where helicopters could land safely to transport scientists and instrumentation to and from the ice shelf.
"The Pine Island Glacier ice shelf continues to be the place where the action is taking place in Antarctica," Bindschadler said. "It only can be understood by making direct measurements, which is hard to do. We're doing this hard science because it has to be done. The question of how and why it is melting is even more urgent than it was when we first proposed the project over five years ago."
The team will use a hot water drill to make a hole through the ice shelf. After the drill hits the ocean, the scientists will send a camera down into the cavity to observe the underbelly of the ice shelf and analyze the seabed lying approximately 1,640 feet (500 meters) below the ice. Next the team will lower an instrument package provided by oceanographer Tim Stanton of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, Calif., into the hole. The primary instrument, called a profiler, will move up and down a cable attached to the seabed, measuring temperature, salinity and currents from approximately 10 feet (3 meters) below the ice to just above the seabed.
A second hole will support a similar instrument array fixed to a pole stuck to the underside of the ice shelf. This instrument will measure how ice and water exchange heat. The team also will insert a string of 16 temperature sensors in the lowermost ice to freeze inside and become part of the ice shelf. The sensors will measure how fast heat is transmitted upward through the ice when hot flushes of water enter the ocean cavity.
Sridhar Anandakrishnan, a geophysicist with Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., will study the shape of the ocean cavity and the properties of the bedrock under the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf through a technique called reflective seismology, which involves generating waves of energy by detonating small explosions and banging the ice with instruments resembling sledgehammers. Measurements will be taken in about three dozen spots using helicopters to move from one place to another.
Patrick Lynch | EurekAlert!
Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon
17.08.2017 | Universität Hamburg
New plate adds plot twist to ancient tectonic tale
15.08.2017 | Rice University
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Life Sciences
17.08.2017 | Materials Sciences