Monday, March 26, 2012

The IceCon Project

IceCon is a project funded by the Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and aims at constraining past and current mass changes of the Antarctic ice sheet in the coastal area of Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica.

It comprises 6 partners of several Belgian and foreign institutions, i.e. Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB), University of Luxembourg (UL), Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), and Aberystwyth University (AU).

The IceCon project aims at a better understanding of the past and present deglaciation of the Antarctic ice sheet in Dronning Maud Land (DML) through a new series of measurements and observations in conjunction with ice sheet system modelling. Our main hypothesis is that the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) ice sheet volume in DML was smaller than that predicted by large scale ice sheet models.

Such observations are of major importance for several reasons: (i) less grounded ice at LGM implies less ice loss during deglaciation, which makes it difficult to associate meltwater pulse 1A (MWP1A) to the Antarctic ice sheet (MWP1A was an ~20 m rise in sea level in 500 yr that occurred during global deglaciation ca. 14,200 yr ago). The freshwater source for this event remains controversial, yet understanding the source of MWP1A is important because of its effects on oceanography and climate, and because it provides a potential analogue for rapid ice sheet deglaciation); (ii) correct understanding of past ice volumes are important for GIA (Glacial Isostatic Adjustment) corrections, hence interpretation of the present-day mass change of ice sheets through analysis of GRACE data.

The IceCon project aims at determining the timing of deglaciation since LGM in DML as well as the ice volumes associated with this deglaciation. The methodology relies on direct measurements as well as on the analysis of ice flow characteristics in the coastal area. Coastal DML has high accumulation rate and relatively thin ice, which provides a premier opportunity to reconstruct environmental changes recorded in ice at a high resolution rate. However, this also yields that the span of the glaciological records is limited to the past several thousand years. In this project, we will conduct glaciological studies to study the past millennia and geophysical studies to cover the LGM to present.

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