We visit two field sites in Antarctica to conduct fieldwork and we get there by helicopter!
Scientists can measure properties within rocks that tell us how long they have been exposed at the Earth's surface. This means we can tell how long it has been since an ice sheet retreated from a particular place. While exposed rock can tell us about retreat from 'larger-than-present' configurations, understanding 'smaller-than-present' requires access to rock that exists underneath the ice. Only here will any evidence left over from when the ice sheet was smaller than today be found.
This project aims to gather new data from the Weddell Sea sector of West Antarctica where we think that the ice sheet has recently been smaller than it is today. This would be one of, if not the most, recent major change to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
To collect samples from underneath the ice the project will use a portable drill system that is capable of reaching depths of ~50 m. This drill will collect sub-glacial rock cores during two Antarctic field seasons. The field sites, the Ellsworth and Pensacola Mountains, bracket fast flowing corridors of ice that are thought to have re-advanced in the recent past. The samples will be brought back to the UK and analysed with techniques that record past exposure of rock when the ice sheet was smaller than today.
Field Site Locations
The new geological data will be used to assess computer models to see if they accurately capture past ice sheet behaviour. If they do, we can have more confidence that they can accurately predict what will happen in the future.