Short Name:

Collaborative Research; IPY: Ocean-Ice Interaction in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica

The Office of Polar Programs, Antarctic Integrated and System Science Program has made this award to support an interdisciplinary study of the effects of the ocean on the stability of glacial ice in the most dynamic region the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, namely the Pine Island Glacier in the Amundsen Sea Embayment. The collaborative project builds on the knowledge gained by the highly successful West Antarctic Ice Sheet program and is being jointly sponsored with NASA. Recent observations indicate a significant ice loss, equivalent to 10% of the ongoing increase in sea-level rise, in this region. These changes are largest along the coast and propagate rapidly inland, indicating the critical impact of the ocean on ice sheet stability in the region. While a broad range of remote sensing and ground-based instrumentation is available to characterize changes of the ice surface and internal structure (deformation, ice motion, melt) and the shape of the underlying sediment and rock bed, instrumentation has yet to be successfully deployed for observing boundary layer processes of the ocean cavity which underlies the floating ice shelf and where rapid melting is apparently occurring. Innovative, mini ocean sensors that can be lowered through boreholes in the ice shelf (about 500 m thick) will be developed and deployed to automatically provide ocean profiling information over at least three years. Their data will be transmitted through a conducting cable frozen in the borehole to the surface where it will be further transmitted via satellite to a laboratory in the US. Geophysical and remote sensing methods (seismic, GPS, altimetry, stereo imaging, radar profiling) will be applied to map the geometry of the ice shelf, the shape of the sub ice-shelf cavity, the ice surface geometry and deformations within the glacial ice. To integrate the seismic, glaciological and oceanographic observations, a new 3-dimensional coupled ice-ocean model is being developed which will be the first of its kind. NASA is supporting satellite based research and the deployment of a robotic-camera system to explore the environment in the ocean cavity underlying the ice shelf and NSF is supporting all other aspects of this study. Broader impacts: This project is motivated by the potential societal impacts of rapid sea level rise and should result in critically needed improvements in characterizing and predicting the behavior of coupled ocean-ice systems. It is a contribution to the International Polar Year and was endorsed by the International Council for Science as a component of the 'Multidisciplinary Study of the Amundsen Sea Embayment' proposal #258 of the honeycomb of endorsed IPY activities. The research involves substantial international partnerships with the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Bristol in the UK. The investigators will partner with the previously funded 'Polar Palooza' education and outreach program in addition to undertaking a diverse set of outreach activities of their own. Eight graduate students and one undergraduate as well as one post doc will be integrated into this research project.

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