Posts tagged "ice sheets"

Antarctic expedition to estimate thinning ice sheets

Antarctica might seem like a desolate and inhabitable continent with little to offer other than perhaps the sight of penguins, but it holds the answers to many scientific questions. Simply put, Antarctica is covered by kilometers-thick ice, frozen water which will melt when sufficiently warmed. Sea level around the world is therefore dependent on how fast Antarctica’s ice sheets melt. My research looks at past changes of ice sheet thickness. As a glacier melts and thins, rocks on its flanks become exposed to the atmosphere (specifically cosmic radiation). A technique called surface-exposure-dating is used to estimate when rocks became exposed at the glacier surface, creating...

Microbes on ice: Climate amplifiers?

Lifeless ice? At first glance, the cryosphere – including all frozen water on Earth – appears to comprise vast, cold expanses devoid of biology. However, even the most remote, hostile and unlikely icy locations in both hemispheres have been found to harbour diverse and active microbial life. It is hard to imagine ice offering many viable places for microbes to exploit; but liquid water and energy sources exist beneath, within, and especially on the surfaces of glaciers and ice sheets. Research has shown us that not only are ice-dwelling microbial communities crucial stores of biodiversity, they might be important amplifiers of global climate change. The area...

Changing glaciers in Antarctica

Glaciers are the ‘canary in the coal mine’. Shrinking glaciers are the world’s most visual, most impressive evidence of globally warming temperatures. This is particularly evident around the Antarctic Peninsula, which is currently warming at around six times the global average. This warming is driving dramatic changes in snow and ice cover; glaciers are thinning, accelerating and receding, and their buttressing ice shelves are collapsing.     The Antarctic Peninsula The ~400 glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula are particularly sensitive to climate change because they are relatively small and are located on a high mountainous spine, projecting northwards from the Antarctic continent towards warmer latitudes....