Cryospheric Sciences

Antarctic ice sheet

Did you know … that liquid water can be held within a glacier?

Hidden below the surface of some glaciers, liquid water can be found within what is called the firn layer – the upper layer of a glacier where snow compacts into glacier ice. Liquid water may persist there for up to many years, forming what scientists call “firn aquifers.” While observations of seasonal firn aquifers have existed since the mid to late 1900s in several mountain glaciers, recent stu ...[Read More]

Hysteresis For Dummies – Why history matters

Hysteresis For Dummies – Why history matters

Perhaps you have stumbled upon the word ‘hysteresis’ before, for example in connection with the stability behavior of our Earth’s large ice sheets and their long-term effect on global sea-level rise, or the long-term stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or even in another context outside earth/climate science. Or you might have come across this term during your studies, bu ...[Read More]

How do the ups and downs of the solid Earth influence the future of the West Antarctic ice sheet?

When the Antarctic ice sheet loses mass, the pressure it exerts on the underlying solid Earth decreases. As the ice sheet becomes less heavy, the Earth’s surface is not pressed down as much as before and therefore slowly rises up. In some regions, this rebound process is much faster than previously thought and could stabilise areas of unstable ice retreat. How come? Keep reading to figure it out… ...[Read More]

©LEt’sGO to Antarctica !

©LEt’sGO to Antarctica !

With the current situation, polar fieldwork might be/have been cancelled and we have a suggestion to remedy your field-blues… Why not use ©LEGO to pretend you’re back in the field with the added bonus that you get to be in the warmth and comfort of your home! Here, we’ve re-enacted radar fieldwork that took place a year and a half ago in Antarctica… But first, let’s start with some backgroun ...[Read More]

Radiocarbon rocks! – How rocks can tell us about the history of an ice sheet…

Radiocarbon rocks! – How rocks can tell us about the history of an ice sheet…

When most people hear the phrase “radiocarbon dating”, they think of measuring carbon to date organic material. But did you know that carbon is also produced within rocks, and that we can use it to learn about the past behaviour of a glacier? About 20,000 years ago it was colder and large parts of the continents were covered by ice. But what did Antarctica – the largest ice mass ...[Read More]

Did you know? – Ocean bathymetry can control Antarctic mass loss!

Ice shelves (the floating parts of the Antarctic ice sheet) play a fundamental role in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet (see this post) and, therefore, its contribution to global sea-level rise. They lose mass primarily through melting at their bases, which are in contact with the ocean. This thins them and makes them more vulnerable, reducing their stabilising potential and causing more i ...[Read More]

Image of the Week – Delaying the flood with glacial geoengineering

As the climate is currently warming, many countries and cities are preparing to cope with one of its major impacts, namely sea-level rise. Up to now, the mitigation of climate change has mainly focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Large-scale geoengineering has also been proposed to remove carbon from the atmosphere or inject aerosols into the stratosphere to limit the rise in tem ...[Read More]

Image of the Week — Quantifying Antarctica’s ice loss

It is this time of the year, where any news outlet is full of tips on how to lose weight rapidly to  become beach-body ready. According to the media avalanche following the publication of the ice sheet mass balance inter-comparison exercise (IMBIE) team’s Nature paper, Antarctica is the biggest loser out there. In this Image of the Week, we explain how the international team managed to weight Anta ...[Read More]

Image of the Week – Antarctica: A decade of dynamic change

   Whilst we tend to think of the ice flow in Antarctica as a very slow and steady process, the wonders of satellites have shown over the last two decades it is one of the most dynamic places on Earth! This image of the week maps this dynamical change using all the satellite tools at a scientist’s disposal with novel statistical methods to work out why the change has recently been so rapid. Why do ...[Read More]

Image of the Week – Searching for clues of extraterrestrial life on the Antarctic ice sheet

Last week we celebrated Antarctica Day, 50 years after the Antarctic Treaty was signed. This treaty includes an agreement to protect Antarctic ecosystems. But what if, unintentionally, this protection also covered clues of life beyond Earth? In this Image of the Week, we explore how meteorites found in Antarctica are an important piece of the puzzle in the search for extraterrestrial life. Meteori ...[Read More]