West Antartctic Ice Shelf - Ocean Interactions

Lead PI: Stanley Jacobs , Dr. William Massie Smethie , Dr. Frank O Nitsche

Unit Affiliation: Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

April 2018 - March 2020
Antarctica ; West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Overview and intellectual merit:  This project extends and combines historical and recent ocean data sets to investigate ice-ocean-interactions along the Pacific continental margin of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The synthesis focuses on the strikingly different environments on and near the cold Ross Sea and warm Amundsen Sea continental shelves, where available measurements reach back to ~1958 and 1994, respectively. On the more extensively covered Ross Sea continental shelf, multiple reoccupations of ocean stations and transects are used to extend our knowledge of long-term ocean freshening and the mass balance of the world?s largest ice shelf. On the more rugged Amundsen Sea continental shelf, which contains the earth?s fastest melting ice shelves, continuing research on observed thermohaline variability also pursues connections between outer shelf shoals and vulnerable ice shelf grounding zones.  This interdisciplinary work updates a prior study of ice shelf response to ocean thermal forcing, and uses chemical tracers to measure changes in shelf, deep and bottom water transformations and production rates. Broader impacts: Recent and potential future rates of sea level rise are the primary broad-scale impacts of the ice and ocean changes revealed by observations in the study area. The overriding question is whether global and regional sea levels will accelerate gradually, allowing carbon usage reductions to head off the worst consequences, or so rapidly that they will contribute to major social and economic upheavals. Collaborations and data acquired by foreign vessels are also utilized to better understand the causes of rapid change in these shelf seas and ice shelves, along with associated wider implications. Data that are re-gridded, re-edited or newly collated will be archived, and results made available via presentations, publications, and press releases if warranted. This proposal does not require fieldwork in the Antarctic.