SWAIS2C aims to determine just how much the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted during the last interglacial and other past times when climate was warmer than present.
An urgent priority for scientists is estimating the rate at which the Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt over the coming decades and centuries.
Despite our ever-improving understanding of ice sheet dynamics, difficulties associated with modelling polar ice sheet response to climate change remains the largest source of uncertainty in global sea-level projections. This is especially true when modelling the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The SWAIS2C project will:
- Drill beneath the sea floor to recover sediment cores at two locations along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica, where land ice begins to float and form the Ross Ice Shelf. This region where the land ice begins to float is called the grounding zone.
- Extract geological data from these sediment cores to reconstruct environmental conditions that characterised the drill sites as climate changed in the past. We will focus on periods of prior warmth to determine whether the Ross Ice Shelf disappeared and how far the grounding zone retreated or advanced.
- Use numerical models to simulate ice sheet response to these past intervals of warmth. Data from the drill cores will provide constraints for the models to test and enhance their ability to simulate prior environmental changes in West Antarctica.
Sediment cores are crucial for climate studies as they allow us to glimpse past periods when climate was warmer than today and like that we expect in the coming decades. Every core we collect will contain layers of data that allow us to look back hundreds, thousands, and millions of years into Earth’s past. Through our frontier geoscience and cutting-edge technology, we can uncover a treasure trove of information. New data we glean from the cores will give us unique insight into past environmental change in Antarctica. Dr Richard LevyCo-Chief Scientist