Karen Frey/Clark University

Early Results from Survey of Antarctica's Biggest Ice Shelf

Preliminary information from ROSETTA-Ice, a campaign to measure the dimensions of the California-sized Ross Ice Shelf and the forces that shape it, will be discussed by one of the campaign’s lead scientists (C52B-07 • Friday, Dec. 16, 11:50 a.m. • Moscone West 3009) at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 2016 Fall Meeting.

Helen Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and a ROSETTA-Ice principal investigator, will describe the use of an aircraft-mounted suite of instruments during the 2015 and 2016 austral summers. The campaign over two austral summers is mapping the structure of the 487,000-square-kilometer (188,000-square-mile) Ross Ice Shelf using ice-penetrating radar. Gravity and magnetic instruments are being used to map the shape of the seafloor beneath the ice shelf, which has been largely unknown until now.

The presence of the ice shelf puts the brakes on the flow of landlocked Antarctic ice into the ocean.  Antarctic ice shelves are also where almost all of the mass loss takes place from the ice sheet by iceberg calving and basal melting so if mass loss increases, the ice shelf thins and the flow of grounded ice will increase. Because Ross Ice Shelf has disappeared and reappeared during various ice-age periods, the researchers hope to understand how it might react to today’s human-caused climate change.

“It is vital to monitor these ice shelves so we can understand where the changes are taking place and collect data to enable us to improve predictions about the future,” said Fricker.

ROSETTA-Ice scientists are also investigating the circulation of ocean waters underneath the ice sheet, the force scientists consider most likely to trigger rapid ice-sheet-mass loss in coming decades. A component of this project is the launch of six Air Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) floats, purchased by Scripps Oceanography, the Old York Foundation, and a crowdfunding project. These floats will provide real-time information about the ocean properties in the Ross Sea that affect the ice shelf. The first of these floats was launched by aircraft on Nov. 30, 2016 and telemetered its data to the U.S. a few hours later.

ROSETTA-Ice has an interdisciplinary and diverse team. Funded by the National Science Foundation Antarctic Integrated Systems Science and the Moore Foundation, the project is led by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and includes researchers from Scripps, Colorado

College, and Earth & Space Research in Seattle, Wash. Three of the four lead principal investigators are female. The field team during the two research seasons included LDEO researchers Kirsty Tinto who led the field team and David Porter who planned the ALAMO deployment, Scripps graduate student Maya Becker, and Scripps postdoctoral researcher Matthew Siegfried.

PRESENTATION: C52B-07 • Friday, Dec. 16, 11:50 a.m., Moscone West 3009


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