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19 November 2009

NSIDC scientists on expedition to an Antarctic ice shelf

From December 2009 to March 2010, NSIDC Lead Scientist and Antarctic expert Ted Scambos will travel to the Larsen Ice Shelf region in Antarctica to study the effect of ice shelf collapse on Antarctic glaciers. The expedition is part of the National Science Foundation-funded Larsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica (LARISSA) Project, which aims to explore the causes and impacts of ice shelf collapse in a fast-warming region of Antarctica.

In 2002, a huge section of the Larsen Ice Shelf disintegrated in the largest such event ever recorded. This collapse had a major impact on the region, affecting ice flow, ocean circulation, and the marine ecosystem. In subsequent years, similar ice shelf disintegrations have occurred several times elsewhere along the Antarctic Peninsula. The LARISSA project researchers hope to gain insight into the factors that lead to ice shelf collapse, and better understand the environmental impact of such break-up events. As the region continues to warm, break ups are expected to become more frequent.

During the expedition, Scambos and NSIDC researchers Rob Bauer and Terry Haran will set up monitoring systems equipped with weather instruments, GPS units, and cameras at key points on glaciers that feed into the remaining Larsen Ice Shelf. The systems, known as automated meteorology-ice-geophysics systems (AMIGOS), were designed by electronics consultant Ronald Ross of Australia, who will be joining the team during the field season. They will continue to transmit data and photographs back to the scientists through satellite telephone uplink long after the fieldwork is over. The researchers hope these data will reveal how glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula are responding to ice shelf collapse.

Scambos, Bauer, Haran, and Ross will post updates and photographs about the project at http://iceshelf.wordpress.com.

More Information

For further inquiries, please contact the NSIDC press office at leitzell@nsidc.org or +1 303.492.1497.

 

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