Ice Dynamics and Palaeoclimate team

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Our ambition

A priority for this team is to develop a deeper understanding of climate change and the response of the ice sheets so that we can improve our ability to explain the risk of future Antarctic and Greenland ice sheet loss and its impact on sea level.

Ice cores being stored at the drilling site on Berkner Island, AntarcticaI
Ice cores being stored at the drilling site on Berkner Island, Antarctica

By investigating the interplay between ice dynamics and the climate we aim to predict the future of the polar ice sheets. Observation and modelling of the mass balance of the ice sheets in response to present climate change is critical to our understanding of future change. By applying our expertise in the fields of ice core research we are enhancing knowledge of past climate and the links between the climate and the atmosphere. The team undertakes fundamental research that underpins several of the Antarctic grand challenges: the stability of the WAIS remains a fundamental unknown for predicting future sea level rise; the stability of the Ronne-Filchner ice shelf and the glaciers feeding into the Weddell Sea is poorly understood. By combining this ice core research with studies of ice sheet flow and stability, and by working in partnership with the international glaciological community we can contribute to the global effort to understand climate change – one of the greatest challenges facing society today.

Team priorities

Science

  • Investigate the current mass balance and glacier response to climate change. To mount research expeditions to Pine Island and Thwaites glacial basins, which are both known to have thinned in recent decades, to understand the drivers of the current change in mass balance
  • Sea level rise and the ice sheet stability.   To determine vulnerability to future warming and the potential future sea level rise by analysis and comparison of past ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice and Greenland ice sheets during and after the Last Interglacial around 125,000 years ago
  • Antarctica in a warmer world. To work in partnership with colleagues from the UK university sector and the German Alfred Wegener Institute create realistic projections of the amount of sea-level rise likely to be generated from the Filchner Ice Shelf and its tributary ice streams. Projections will be made, for the middle of this century, of the amount of global sea-level rise from this sector
  • Identifying changes in the Earth’s climate system by acquiring and analysing the world’s oldest ice. To work in partnership with the international glaciological community, to prepare for a major new effort to obtain an ice core containing a 1.5 Million year long record of global climate and atmospheric composition

 Technology, innovation and training

10000615Drilling shot holes for seismic surveys using a hot water drill on the Rutford Ice Stream, Antarctica

 

  • Deploy a mixture of remote sensing, ice sheet and climate modelling, as well as traditional glaciological field work techniques using radar, seismics, GPS survey and ice cores to understand the dynamics and mass balance of the polar ice sheets
  • Using our key skills in radar, seismics and rapid access ice drilling, take a lead in the international search for a site likely to produce world’s longest ice core climate record
  • Develop new innovations in ice core technology and analytical techniques to recover centennial to millennial scale records of climate change from glaciated regions
  • Through PhD programmes and grant-funded post-doctoral research positions, train the next generation of glaciologists and ice core scientists.

 Influencing and leading international programmes

Stakeholder engagement

  • Produce policy briefings and presentations for UK Government departments including the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • Produce science updates and briefings on the impact and relevance of our research for our funders, including NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)
  • Support the Antarctic Treaty system by provision of research and expert advice on environmental change via the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Polar Regions Department

Public engagement in research

  • Work with the BAS Communications Team to explain our science and its relevance for environmental stewardship to a wide range of public audiences.
  • Collaborate with Cambridge University Institute for Sustainable Leadership to inform senior business leaders from a wide range of industries about climate change
  • Provide visitors to BAS with the chance to experience climate research at first hand with visits to the ice core laboratories and cold room, guided by experienced scientists
  • Maintain displays of climate research at the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum and seek further similar publicly accessible displays