Scientists established more than 30 years ago that the climate-related variability of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere over Earth’s ice-age cycles was regulated by the ocean. Hypotheses to explain how the ocean that regulates atmospheric carbon dioxide have long been debated, but they have proven to be difficult to test. This project was designed test one leading hypothesis, specifically that the ocean experienced greater density stratification during the ice ages. That is, with greater stratification during the ice ages and the slower replacement of deep water by cold dense water formed near the poles, the deep ocean would have held more carbon dioxide, which is produced by biological respiration of the organic carbon that constantly rains to the abyss in the form of dead organisms and organic debris that sink from the sunlit surface ocean. To test this hypothesis, the degree of ocean stratification during the last ice age and the rate of deep-water replacement was to be constrained by comparing the radiocarbon ages of organisms that grew in the surface ocean and at the sea floor within a critical region around Antarctica, where most of the replacement of deep waters occurs. Completing this work was expected to contribute toward improved models of future climate change. Climate scientists rely on models to estimate the amount of fossil fuel carbon dioxide that will be absorbed by the ocean in the future. Currently the ocean absorbs about 25% of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. Most of this carbon is absorbed in the Southern Ocean (the region around Antarctica). How this will change in the future is poorly known. Models have difficulty representing physical conditions in the Southern Ocean accurately, thereby adding substantial uncertainty to projections of future ocean uptake of carbon dioxide. Results of the proposed study will provide a benchmark to test the ability of models to simulate ocean processes under climate conditions distinctly different from those that occur today, ultimately leading to improvement of the models and to more reliable projections of future absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean.
The project added a research component to an existing scientific expedition to the Southern Ocean, in the region between the Ross Sea and New Zealand, that collected sediment cores at locations down the northern flank of the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge at approximately 170°W. The goal was to collect sediments at each location deposited since early in the peak of the last ice age. This region is unusual in the Southern Ocean in that sediments deposited during the last ice age contain foraminifera, tiny organisms with calcium carbonate shells, in much greater abundance than in other regions of the Southern Ocean. Foraminifera are widely used as an archive of several geochemical tracers of past ocean conditions. We proposed to compare the radiocarbon age of foraminifera that inhabited the surface ocean with the age of contemporary specimens that grew on the seabed. The difference in age between surface and deep-swelling organisms would have been used to discriminate between two proposed mechanisms of deep water renewal during the ice age: formation in coastal polynyas around the edge of Antarctica, much as occurs today, versus formation by open-ocean convection in deep-water regions far from the continent. If the latter mechanism prevails, then it was expected that surface and deep-dwelling foraminifera would exhibit similar radiocarbon ages. In the case of dominance of deep-water formation in coastal polynyas, one expects to find very different radiocarbon ages in the two populations of foraminifera. In the extreme case of greater ocean stratification during the last ice age, one even expects the surface dwellers to appear to be older than contemporary bottom dwellers because the targeted core sites lie directly under the region where the oldest deep waters outcrop at the surface following their long circuitous transit through the deep ocean. The primary objective of the proposed work was to reconstruct the water mass age structure of the Southern Ocean during the last ice age, which, in turn, is a primary factor that controls the amount of carbon dioxide stored in the deep sea. In addition, the presence of foraminifera in the cores to be recovered provides a valuable resource for many other paleoceanographic applications, such as: 1) the application of nitrogen isotopes to constrain the level of nutrient utilization in the Southern Ocean and, thus, the efficiency of the ocean’s biological pump, 2) the application of neodymium isotopes to constrain the transport history of deep water masses, 3) the application of boron isotopes and boron/calcium ratios to constrain the pH and inorganic carbon system parameters of ice-age seawater, and 4) the exploitation of metal/calcium ratios in foraminifera to reconstruct the temperature (Mg/Ca) and nutrient content (Cd/Ca) of deep waters during the last ice age at a location near their source near Antarctica.
Unfortunately, the cores were shipped to the core repository in a horizontal orientation and there was sufficient distortion of the sediment that the radiocarbon ages of benthic foraminifera were uninterpretable. Therefore, we report only the radiocarbon dates for planktonic foraminifera as well as the total counts of elemental relative abundance from X-ray Fluorescence analysis of the cores. In addition, we used the expedition as an opportunity to collect water samples from which dissolved concentrations of long-lived isotope of thorium and protactinium were determined. Results from those analyses showed that lateral transport by isopycnal mixing dominates the supply of Pa to the Southern Ocean. We have also developed a new algorithm to correct for supply of Th by isopycnal mixing and thereby derive estimates of dust flux to the Southern Ocean.
Overview: In order to close the global overturning circulation, high-density deep- and bottom waters produced at high latitudes must be made less dense and upwell to shallower depths. Available observations from the subtropical South Atlantic indicate that the bulk of the mixing in the deep ocean there takes place over the topographically rough Mid-Atlantic Ridge, in particular in the quasi-regularly spaced "fracture zone canyons" corrugating the ridge flanks. There, dense water is advected toward the ridge crest (i.e. upwelled) by persistent along-valley currents that flow down the unidirectional density gradients, which are maintained by strong turbulence (diapycnal mixing). Most of the data on which these inferences are based were collected during the Brazil Basin Tracer Release Experiment (BBTRE) along a single ridge-flank canyon in the western South Atlantic near 22S where previous analyses have shown that both tidal mixing and overflow processes are important. Therefore, it is likely that both processes must be considered in order to understand and parameterize the effects of turbulence and mixing in the canyons corrugating the flanks of all slow-spreading ridges, which make up large fractions of the sea floor, in particular in the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans. The primary aim of this follow-on project is to improve our understanding of the dynamics over the corrugated flanks of slow-spreading mid-ocean ridges. Due to the coarse sampling resolution and choice of station locations it is not possible to answer important questions, such as the relative importance of tidal and sill mixing, from the BBTRE data. Therefore, high-resolution surveys of hydrography, three-dimensional flow, turbulence and mixing will be carried out in two neighboring canyons and over the intervening topographic spur in the BBTRE region to determine the relative contributions of tidal and sill-related mixing. Furthermore, profiling moorings deployed on two nearby sill regions will be used to derive time series of spatially integrated mixing related buoyancy fluxes and to investigate the strong but unexplained sub-inertial variability of the along-canyon flow recorded previously. Additionally, three small moorings will be deployed in saddles between the two canyons to investigate inter-canyon exchange. The data analysis will include available data from previous experiments, including a set of tracer profiles that has not been analyzed before. Intellectual Merit: The corrugated flanks of slow-spreading ridges cover large areas of the sea floor of several major ocean basins. Therefore, understanding the dynamics in the ~100 km of ridge-flank canyons and its effects on the buoyancy and upwelling budget of the abyssal ocean is of global significance. In addition to determining the relative importance of tidal mixing and cross-sill flows in two canyons, the temporal variability of turbulence and mixing from tidal to yearly time scales will be investigated to gain insights into the forcing of the along-canyon flows, the exchange between neighboring canyons, and the eventual fate of the canyon waters. Broader Impacts: It is anticipated that insights gained during this project will improve our understanding of abyssal mixing in many different regions with similar bottom topography and provide the basis for better parameterizations of the effects of turbulence and mixing in large-scale circulation and climate models that cannot resolve these small-scale processes. As part of the project, a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher will be trained in all aspects of observational physical oceanography, from data acquisition to interpretation.
The western Antarctic Peninsula has become a model for understanding cold water communities and how they may be changing in Antarctica and elsewhere. Brown macroalgae (seaweeds) form extensive undersea forests in the northern portion of this region where they play a key role in providing both physical structure and a food (carbon) source for shallow water communities. Yet between Anvers Island (64 degrees S latitude) and Adelaide Island (67 S latitude) these macroalgae become markedly less abundant and diverse. This is probably because the habitat to the south is covered by more sea ice for a longer period, and the sea ice reduces the amount of light that reaches the algae. The reduced macroalgal cover undoubtedly impacts other organisms in the food web, but the ways in which it alters sea-floor community processes and organization is unknown. This project will quantitatively document the macroalgal communities at multiple sites between Anvers and Adelaide Islands using a combination of SCUBA diving, video surveys, and algal collections. Sea ice cover, light levels, and other environmental parameters on community structure will be modelled to determine which factors have the largest influence. Impacts on community structure, food webs, and carbon flow will be assessed through a mixture of SCUBA diving and video surveys. Broader impacts include the training of graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher, as well as numerous informal public education activities including lectures, presentations to K-12 groups, and a variety of social media-based outreach.<br/><br/>Macroalgal communities are more abundance and diverse to the north along the Western Antarctic Peninsula, perhaps due to the greater light availability that is associated with shorter period of sea-ice cover. This project will determine the causes and community level consequence of this variation in algal community structure. First, satellite data on sea ice extent and water turbidity will be used to select study sites between 64 S and 69 S where the extent of annual sea ice cover is the primary factor influencing subsurface light levels. Then, variations in macroalgal cover across these study sites will be determined by video line-transect surveys conducted by SCUBA divers. The health, growth, and physiological status of species found at the different sites will be determined by quadrat sampling. The relative importance of macroalgal-derived carbon to the common invertebrate consumers in the foodweb will be assessed with stable isotope and fatty acid biomarker techniques. This will reveal how variation in macroalgal abundance and species composition across the sea ice cover gradient impacts sea floor community composition and carbon flow throughout the food web. In combination, this work will facilitate predictions of how the ongoing reductions in extent and duration of sea ice cover that is occurring in the region as a result of global climate change will impact the structure of nearshore benthic communities.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Abstract (non-technical)<br/>Sea level rise is a problem of global importance and it is increasingly affecting the tens of millions of Americans living along coastlines. The melting of glaciers in mountain areas worldwide in response to global warming is a major cause of sea level rise and increases in nuisance coastal flooding. However, the world's largest land-based ice sheets are situated in the Polar Regions and their response under continued warming is very difficult to predict. One reason for this uncertainty is a lack of observations of ice behavior and melt under conditions of warming, as it is a relatively new global climate state lasting only a few generations so far. Researchers will investigate ice growth on Antarctica under past warm conditions using geological archives embedded in the layers of sand and mud under the sea floor near Antarctica. By peeling back at the layers beneath the seafloor investigators can read the history book of past events affecting the ice sheet. The Antarctic continent on the South Pole, carries the largest ice mass in the world. The investigator's findings will substantially improve scientists understanding of the response of ice sheets to global warming and its effect on sea level rise.<br/><br/><br/>Abstract (technical)<br/>The melt of land based ice is raising global sea levels with at present only minor contributions from polar ice sheets. However, the future role of polar ice sheets in climate change is one of the most critical uncertainties in predictions of sea level rise around the globe. The respective roles of oceanic and atmospheric greenhouse forcing on ice sheets are poorly addressed with recent measurements of polar climatology, because of the extreme rise in greenhouse forcing the earth is experiencing at this time. Data on the evolution of the West Antarctic ice sheet is particularly sparse. To address the data gap, researchers will reconstruct the timing and spatial distribution of Antarctic ice growth through the last greenhouse to icehouse climate transition around 37 to 33 Ma. They will collect sedimentological and geochemical data on core samples from a high-latitude paleoarchive to trace the shutdown of the chemical weathering system, the onset of glacial erosion, ice rafting, and sea ice development, as East and West Antarctic ice sheets coalesced in the Weddell Sea sector. Their findings will lead to profound increases in the understanding of the role of greenhouse forcing in ice sheet development and its effect on the global climate system.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Intellectual Merit: <br/>Opening of Drake Passage and the West Scotia Sea south of Tierra del Fuego broke the final continental barrier to onset of a complete Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Initiation of the ACC has been associated in time with a major, abrupt, drop in global temperatures and the rapid expansion of the Antarctic ice sheets at 33-34 Ma. Events leading to the formation of the Drake Passage gateway are poorly known. Understanding the tectonic evolution of the floor of the Central Scotia Sea (CSS) and the North Scotia Ridge is a key to this understanding. Previous work has demonstrated that superimposed constructs formed a volcanic arc that likely blocked direct eastward flow from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the opening Drake Passage gateway as the active South Sandwich arc does today. The PIs propose a cruise to test, develop and refine, with further targeted mapping and dredging, their theory of CSS tectonics and the influence it had on the onset and development of the ACC. In addition they propose an installation of GPS receiver to test their paleogeographic reconstructions and determine whether South Georgia is moving as part of the South American plate. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>A graduate student will be involved in all stages of the research. Undergraduate students will also be involved as watch-standers. A community college teacher will participate in the cruise. The PIs will have a website on which there will be images of the actual ocean floor dredging in operation. The teacher will participate with web and outreach support through PolarTREC. Results of the cruise are of broad interest to paleoceanographers, paleoclimate modelers and paleobiogeographers.A network of four continuous Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS) receivers was installed on the bedrock of South Georgia in the Southern Ocean in 2013 and 2014. An additional receiver on a concrete foundation provides a tie to a tide gauge, part of the United Kingdom South Atlantic Tide Gauge Network. The GNSS receivers have already provided data suggesting that the South Georgia microcontinent (SGM) is moving independent of both the South American plate to the north and the Scotia plate to the south. The data also demonstrate that the SGM is being uplifted.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is naturally emitted into the oceans by geologic seeps and microbial production. Based on studies of persistent deep-sea seeps at mid- and northern latitudes, researchers have learned that bacteria and archaea can create a "sediment filter" that oxidizes methane prior to its release. Antarctica is thought to contain large reservoirs of organic carbon buried beneath its ice which could a quantity of methane equivalent to all of the permafrost in the Arctic and yet we know almost nothing about the methane oxidizing microbes in this region. How these microbial communities develop and potentially respond to fluctuations in methane levels is an under-explored avenue of research. A bacterial mat was recently discovered at 78 degrees south, suggesting the possible presence of a methane seep, and associated microbial communities. This project will explore this environment in detail to assess the levels and origin of methane, and the nature of the microbial ecosystem present. <br/> <br/>An expansive bacterial mat appeared and/or was discovered at 78 degrees south in 2011. This site, near McMurdo Station Antarctica, has been visited since the mid-1960s, but this mat was not observed until 2011. The finding of this site provides an unusual opportunity to study an Antarctic marine benthic habitat with active methane cycling and to examine the dynamics of recruitment and community succession of seep fauna including bacteria, archaea, protists and metazoans. This project will collect the necessary baseline data to facilitate further studies of Antarctic methane cycling. The concentration and source of methane will be determined at this site and at potentially analogous sites in McMurdo Sound. In addition to biogeochemical characterization of the sites, molecular analysis of the microbial community will quantify the time scales on which bacteria and archaea respond to methane input and provide information on rates of community development and succession in the Southern Ocean. Project activities will facilitate the training of at least one graduate student and results will be shared at both local and international levels. A female graduate student will be mentored as part of this project and data collected will form part of her dissertation. Lectures will be given in K-12 classrooms in Oregon to excite students about polar science. National and international audiences will be reached through blogs and presentations at a scientific conference. The PI's previous blogs have been used by K-12 classrooms as part of their lesson plans and followed in over 65 countries.<br/>
Marine ecosystems under large ice shelves are thought to contain sparse, low-diversity plankton and seafloor communities due the low supply of food from productive sunlight waters. Past studies have shown sub-ice shelf ecosystems to change in response to altered oceanographic processes resulting from ice-shelve retreat. However, information on community changes and ecosystem structure under ice shelves are limited because sub-ice-shelf ecosystems have either been sampled many years after ice-shelf breakout, or have been sampled through small boreholes, yielding extremely limited spatial information. The recent breakout of the A-68 iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf in the western Weddell Sea provides an opportunity to use a ship-based study to evaluate benthic communities and water column characteristics in an area recently vacated by a large overlying ice shelf. The opportunity will allow spatial assessments at the time of transition from an under ice-shelf environment to one initially exposed to conditions more typical of a coastal Antarctic marine setting. \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThis RAPID project will help determine the state of a coastal Antarctic ecosystem newly exposed from ice-shelf cover and will aid in understanding of rates of community change during transition. The project will conduct a 10-day field program, allowing contrasts to be made of phytoplankton and seafloor megafaunal communities in areas recently exposed by ice-shelf loss to areas exposed for many decades. The project will be undertaken in a collaborative manner with the South Korean Antarctic Agency, KOPRI, by participating in a cruise in March/May 2018. Combining new information in the area of Larsen C with existing observations after the Larsen A and B ice shelf breakups further to the north, the project is expected to generate a dataset that can elucidate fundamental processes of planktonic and benthic community development in transition from food-poor to food-rich ecosystems. The project will provide field experience to two graduate students, a post-doctoral associate and an undergraduate student. Material from the project will be incorporated into graduate courses and the project will communicate daily work and unfolding events through social media and blogs while they explore this area of the world that is largely underexplored.
Intellectual Merit:<br/>This project will produce a new compilation of Ross Sea seismic stratigraphy, including new interpretations, that can be used to provide boundary conditions on the tectonic and glacial evolution of West Antarctica and the Ross Sea. The principal goals include compilation of, and interpretation of, all available existing seismic reflection data for the Western Ross Sea, coupled with geophysical modeling to produce paleo-bathymetric reconstructions for the entire 800 km-wide Ross Sea. Specific tasks will include: extending existing work on mapping travel time to reflectors, identifying relations in the seismic data that indicate subsidence through sea level, constructing velocity models for converting travel time to thickness, and using the velocity models to estimate density and porosity of sediments for backstripping analysis. Modeling/backstripping efforts will be used to constrain past bathymetry. Digital interpretations and stratigraphic grids will be provided as supplements to publications. In that way the results of this study can be used in thermal subsidence modeling and restoration of eroded rock to other parts of Ross Embayment and Marie Byrd Land by others. Digital products may be provided in advance of publication to modelers in a way that will not hurt publication chances.<br/><br/>Broader impacts: <br/>The results of this work will be important for paleo-geographic reconstructions of Antarctica and will therefore be of use to a broad range of researchers, particularly those working in the Ross Sea region. The digital products can be used to test models for the past fluctuations of West Antarctic ice sheets, and in planning for future sediment drilling projects. Two undergraduates to be chosen from applicants will be involved in summer internships held at the University of Rhode Island. Outreach will also include a new website and one or more Wikipedia entries related to Ross Sea sub-sea floor characteristics. The project includes an international collaboration with Dr. Chiara Sauli and others at Instituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale (OGS) in Italy.
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is believed to be vulnerable to climate change as it is grounded below sea level, is drained by rapidly flowing ice streams and is fringed by floating ice shelves subject to melting by incursions of relatively warm Antarctic circumpolar water. Currently, the most rapidly thinning glaciers in Antarctica occur in the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Sea sectors. This study seeks to place the present day observations into a longer-term geological context over a broad scale by high-resolution swath bathymetric mapping of continental shelf sea floor features that indicate past ice presence and behavior. Gaps in existing survey coverage of glacial lineations and troughs indicating ice flow direction and paleo-grounding zone wedges over the Ross, Amundsen and Bellingshausen Sea sectors are targeted. The surveys will be conducted as part of the 2010 Icebreaker Oden science opportunity and will take advantage of the vessel?s state-of-the-art swath mapping system.<br/><br/>Broader impacts:<br/>This activity will supplement and complement more focused regional studies by US, Swedish, UK, French, Japanese and Polish collaborators also sailing on the Oden. The PI will compile bathymetric data to be acquired by the Oden and other ships in the region over the duration of the project into the existing bathymetric data base. The compiled data set will be made publically available through the NSF founded Antarctic Multibeam Bathymetry and Geophysical Data Synthesis (AMBS) site. It will also be integrated into the GEBCO International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean (IBCSO) and so significantly improve the basis for ship navigation in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean. Undergraduate students will be involved in the research under supervision of the PI via the Lamont summer internship program. The PI is a young investigator and this will be his first NSF grant as a PI.
Previous studies of the Indo-Pacific region of Antarctica show that the margin of the ice sheet in this region has advanced and retreated into deep interior basins many times in the past. The apparent instability of this region makes it an important target for study in terms of understanding the future of the East Antarctic ice sheet and sea level rise. This project will study a number of processes that control the ice-shelf stability of this region, with the aim of improving projections of the rate and magnitude of future sea-level rise. This project will engage a range of students and train this next generation of scientists in the complex, interdisciplinary issue of ice-ocean interaction. The project will integrate geophysical data collected from aircraft over three critical sections of the East Antarctic grounding line (Totten Glacier, Denman Glacier, and Cook Ice Shelf) with an advanced ocean model. Using Australian and French assets, the team will collect new data around Denman Glacier and Cook Ice Shelf whereas analysis of Totten Glacier will be based on existing data. The project will assess three hypotheses to isolate the processes that drive the differences in observed grounding line thinning among these three glaciers: 1. bathymetry and large-scale ocean forcing control cavity circulation; 2. ice-shelf draft and basal morphology control cavity circulation; 3. subglacial freshwater input across the grounding line controls cavity circulation. The key outcomes of this new project will be to: 1. evaluate of ice-ocean coupling in areas of significant potential sea-level contribution; 2. relate volume changes of grounded and floating ice to regional oceanic heat transport and sub-ice shelf ocean dynamics in areas of significant potential sea-level and meridional overturning circulation impacts; and 3. improve boundary conditions to evaluate mass, heat, and freshwater budgets of East Antarctica's continental margins.
Abstract<br/><br/>Researchers will explore the use of a distributed temperature sensing monitoring system (DTS), using fiber-optical (FO) technology, as the basis of a sustainable, sub-ice cavity sensing array. FO cable systems, such as may be deployed through a hot-water drilled hole through an ice shelf, passing through the underlying cavity to the sea floor, are capable of measuring temperatures down fiber at 1 meter intervals, and at time frequencies as high as 15 seconds. DTS FO systems operate via optical time domain reflectometry along the fiber waveguide using inelastic backscatter of coherent laser light as a probe beam in the FO environment.<br/><br/>The introduction of new technologies to the harsh environmental conditions of the Antarctic are often associated with high risk. However, the potential rewards of this approach (e.g. multiyear capability, minimal submerged mechanical or electrical components that may fail, relative simplicity of deployment and measurement principle, yet yielding distributed real time and spatial observation) are attractive enough to conduct a pilot project at a field-ready location (McMurdo). <br/><br/>Current indications are that the instability of some of the world's largest ice sheets located around the Antarctic and Greenland may be caused by the presence of warming, deep ocean waters, shoaling over continental shelves, and melting the underside of floating ice shelves. Additional knowledge of the temporal and spatial variability of the temperature fields underneath terminal ice shelves, such as those draining the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, are needed to accurately project future global climate effects on ice-shelf ocean interactions, and in order to inform societal and technological aspects of adaption to changing sea-level.
This project uses radiocarbon in deep-sea corals to understand the Southern Ocean's role in modulating global climate. A key site of deep-water formation, the Southern Ocean is critical to exchange of heat and carbon between the deep-ocean and atmosphere. Changes in it may be linked to low atmospheric CO2 during the last glacial maximum through increased biologic carbon draw down or decreased air-sea CO2 exchange. Testing these hypotheses is challenging because of the scarcity of suitable records of the Southern Ocean's biogeochemistry and circulation. The aragonitic skeletons of deep-sea corals may offer insight because they are well suited for radiocarbon analyses-reflective of the 14C content of the past water column--while also allowing for timing of events through U-series age measurements. Overall, these measurements will put new constraints on the extent of air-sea gas exchange, polar water-column stratification, and the flux of Southern-sourced deep water to the rest of the world's oceans. As a part of this work, new sections of the Drake Passage sea floor will be mapped and imaged, along with the present and past distributions of deep-sea corals and their habitats. <br/><br/><br/><br/>A significant broader impact of this work is characterizing the functioning of what may be a key control of atmospheric CO2 content, which could prove important for fully understanding the impacts of continued CO2 emissions and developing mitigation strategies. As well, the work will characterize deep marine ecologies that are poorly understood, but increasingly exploited as fisheries resources.
9727077 SMITH The annual expansion and contraction of ice cover in the Southern Ocean is the largest seasonal process in the World Ocean. This seasonal variability in ice cover creates extensive fluctuations in primary production, which heavily impacts pelagic and benthic communities. This research will initiate a long time-series study of the water column and sea floor using long-term, autonomous monitoring and sampling systems developed for use in the Antarctic. The study will be located in Post Foster, Deception Island, which supports a pelagic and benthic fauna representative of the Antarctic coastal zone and experiences seasonal ice cover. A bottom-moored, upward-looking acoustic instrument will be deployed on the sea floor for a period of one year to monitor the vertical distribution, abundance and biomass of acoustically-detectable macrozooplankton and micronekton in the water column. Collections will be made over this period using a newly-developed vertically-profiling pump sampling. Simultaneously, a time-lapse camera system will be moored on the sea floor to monitor the spatial distribution, sizes and movements of the epibenthic megafauna component of the benthic community. The instrumentation development will allow the research project to focus on the effect of the seasonal sea ice cycle on the distribution, abundance and biomass of the macrozooplankton and micronekton in the water column. Similar questions on the distribution, abundance, size and movements of the epibenthic megafauna will be addressed. Results from this study will provide a valuable data base for the evaluation of the pelagic and benthic community responses to seasonal variability in the Southern Ocean.
NSF FORM 1358 (1/94) This award, provided by the Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation, supports research to investigate hydrothermal venting in Bransfield Strait, between the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. Previous exploratory work in the Strait identified several sites where hot hydrothermal fluids emanate from the sea floor. These discoveries were made using an instrument package specially designed to detect and map the thermal and chemical anomalies that hydrothermal activity imparts on the overlying water column. Hydrothermal sites in the Strait range in water depth from <200 to 1300 meters and occur on the volcanic outcrops that periodically protrude through the sediment cover along the strike of the rift zone. These sites are alligned with the caldera at Deception Island which has active hot springs. These are the first submarine hydrothermal sites discovered in Antarctica and as such represent unique research opportunities. This project will return to the Strait to further map and sample these areas. There are several compelling reasons to believe that further exploration of vent systems in the Bransfield will yield exciting new information: (1) Bransfield Strait is a back-arc rift system and it is likely that the vent fluids and mineral deposits associated with venting in this setting are unlike anything sampled so far from submarine vents. (2) Preliminary evidence suggests that venting in the Bransfield occurs in two different volcanic substrates: andesite and rhyolite. This situation provides a natural laboratory for investigating the effects of substrate chemistry on vent fluid composition. (3) Bransfield Strait is isolated from the system of mid-ocean ridges and has a relatively short history of rifting (approximately 4 my). So, while the region straddles the Atlantic and Pacific, vent biota in the Strait may well have a distinct genealogy. Biochemical information on vent species in the Bransfield will add to our knowledge of the dispersal of life in the deep ocean. In the past such discoveries have led to the identification of new species and the isolation of previously unknown biochemical compounds. (4) The fire and ice environments of hydrothermal sites in the Bransfield may prove to be the closest analog for primordial environments on Earth and extraterrestrial bodies. The Bransfield Strait is one of the most productive areas of the world's oceans and lies close to the Antarctic continent, far removed from the mid-ocean ridge system. The combination of organic-rich sediment and heat produced by volcanism in this back- arc setting creates a situation conducive to unusual fluids, unique vent biota, and exotic hydrothermal deposits. Collaborative awards: OPP 9725972 and OPP 9813450
Anderson OPP 9527876 Abstract This award supports continuation of a long term investigation of the continental shelf sediments that is aimed at examining the configuration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last glacial maximum, the events and mechanisms involved in its retreat, and the timing of retreat. The project involves: 1) characterizing variations in the ice sheet grounding zone in a latitudinal transect extending from Ross Sea to Bransfield Basin, 2) reconstructing conditions at the ice/bed interface prior to and after ice sheet retreat, and 3) radiometrically dating ice sheet retreat along this transect. Detailed sea floor imagery (multibeam and deep-tow side-scan sonar), high resolution seismic reflection profiles, and sediment cores will be used to map and characterize prior grounding zones. Of particular concern are features that indicate the amount and organization (channelization) of basal meltwater and the extent of bed deformation that occurred in different ice streams. The timing of ice sheet retreat provides information about the link between Northern and Southern hemisphere ice expansion, and the role of eustasy in ice sheet decoupling. This research should lead to better predictive models to determine which ice streams are most unstable and likely, therefore, to serve as Oweak linksO in the long term behavior of West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
9731695 Klinkhammer This award supports participation of Oregon State University (OSU) researchers in an expedition of the German oceanographic research vessel POLARSTERN to the Antarctic Ocean (POLARSTERN cruise ANT-XV/2). Previous OSU researchers supported by the US Antarctic Program identified several areas of hydrothermal venting in the Bransfield Strait. This discovery has important implications to the biogeography of vent animals, the geological evolution of ore deposits, and the chemical and heat budgets of the Earth. The previous work sampled water and particles from above the vent sites at a reconnaissance level. Subsequent chemical analyses of these samples provided insight into the chemistry of fluids emanating from vents on the sea floor. The POLARSTERN cruise affords a unique opportunity to build on these discoveries in the Bransfield Strait, foster future international work in the Bransfield area, extend research on hydrothermal activity to other parts of the Antarctic Peninsula region, and develop a working relationship with a strong international group. In particular, the POLARSTERN expedition provides the opportunity for: 1) additional sampling of water and suspended particulate matter in the water column over the Bransfield hydrothermal sites this sampling would be aided by German photographic reconnaissance; 2) reconnaissance, to determine the broader geographical extent of hydrothermal activity, would be extended to the Scotia Arc and trench areas following the general theme of the German program which is fluid expulsion from the Scotia- Bransfield system; and 3) the use of unique tools available on the POLARSTERN such as a camera sled and grab bottom sampler. This work will make it possible to better define the location of hydrothermal vents and to begin to quantify the amount of water being expelled by this hydrothermal activity. If vents can be precisely located, the bottom photography holds the promise of revealing possible biologic al communities associated with these submarine hot springs.
This work will perform a marine geophysical survey of sea floor spreading off Cape Adare, Antarctica. Magnetic, gravity, swath bathymetry and multi-channel seismic data will be acquired from the southern end of the Adare Basin to the northern parts of the Northern Basin and Central Trough in the Ross Embayment. Previous surveys documented 170 km of regional extension between forty-three and twenty-six million years ago, which resulted in some seafloor spreading in the Adare Basin. However, the relationship of Adare Basin spreading to the overall extension and the southward continental basins of the Ross Embayment has not been established. This relationship is critical to understanding the tectonic evolution of East and West Antarctica and linking Pacific plate motions to the rest of the world. The study will also offer unique insight into rifting processes by studying the transition of rifting between oceanic and continental lithosphere. In terms of broader impacts, this project will support two graduate students and field research experience for undergraduates. The project also involves cooperation between scientists from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
This collaborative study between Columbia University and the Southampton Oceanography Centre will investigate the dynamics of warm water intrusions under antarctic floating ice shelves. The study will focus on the Amundsen Sea and Pine Island Glacier, and will document how this water gains access to the continental shelf, transports heat into the ice shelf cavities via deep, glacially-scoured troughs, and rises beneath the ice to drive basal melting. The resulting seawater-meltwater mixtures upwell near the ice fronts, contributing to the formation of atypical coastal polynyas with strong geochemical signatures. Multidecadal freshening downstream is consistent with thinning ice shelves, which may be triggering changes inland, increasing the flow of grounded ice into the sea. This work will be carried out in combination with parallel modeling, remote sensing and data based projects, in an effort to narrow uncertainties about the response of West Antarctic Ice Sheet to climate change. Using state-of-the-art facilities and instruments, this work will enhance knowledge of water mass production and modification, and the understanding of interactions between the ocean circulation, sea floor and ice shelves. The data and findings will be reported to publicly accessible archives and submitted for publication in the scientific literature. The information obtained should prove invaluable for the development and validation of general circulation models, needed to predict the future role of the Antarctic Ice Sheet in sea level change.
This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, provides funds for a study to investigate the tectonic development of the southwestern Ross Sea region. Displacements between East and West Antarctica have long been proposed based on global plate circuits, apparent hot spot motions, interpretations of seafloor magnetic anomalies, paleomagnetism, and on geologic grounds. Such motions require plate boundaries crossing Antarctica, yet these boundaries have never been explicitly defined. This project will attempt to delineate the late Cenozoic - active boundary between East and West Antarctica along the Terror Rift in the western Ross Sea, where young structures have been identified, continuity between active extension and intracontinental structures can be established, and where accessibility via ship will allow new key data sets to be acquired. We will use multi-source marine and airborne geophysical data to map the fault patterns and volcanic structure along the eastern margin of the Terror Rift. The orientations of volcanic fissures and seamount alignments on the seafloor will be mapped using multibeam bathymetry. The volcanic alignments will show the regional extension or shear directions across the Terror Rift and the orientations of associated crustal stresses. Swath bathymetry and single channel seismic data will be used to document neotectonic fault patterns and the eastern limit of recent faulting. Delineation of neotectonic fault patterns will demonstrate whether the eastern margin of the Terror Rift forms a continuous boundary and whether the rift itself can be linked with postulated strike-slip faults in the northwestern Ross Sea. Seafloor findings from this project will be combined with fault kinematic and stress field determinations from the surrounding volcanic islands and the Transantarctic Mountains. The integrated results will test the propositions that the eastern boundary of the Terror Rift forms the limit of the major, late Cenozoic -active structures through the Ross Sea and that Terror Rift kinematics involve dextral transtension linked to the right-lateral strike-slip faulting to the north. These results will help constrain the kinematic and dynamic links between the West Antarctic rift system and Southern Ocean structures and any related motions between East and West Antarctica. In the first year, a collaborative structural analysis of existing multichannel and single channel seismic profiles and aeromagnetic data over the Terror Rift will be conducted. The location of volcanic vents or fissures and any fault scarps on the sea floor will be identified and a preliminary interpretation of the age and kinematics of deformation in the Terror Rift will be produced. Late in the second year, a one-month cruise on RVIB N.B. Palmer will carry out multibeam bathymetric and sidescan sonar mapping of selected portions of the seafloor of Terror Rift. Gravity, magnetics, seismic reflection and Bathy2000 3.5 kHz sub-bottom profile data will also be collected across the rift. In the third year, we will use these multisource data to map the orientations and forms of volcanic bodies and the extent and geometry of neotectonic faulting associated with the Terror Rift. The project will: 1) complete a map of neotectonic faults and volcanic structures in the Terror Rift; 2) interpret the structural pattern to derive the motions and stresses associated with development of the rift; 3) compare Terror Rift structures with faults and lineaments mapped in the Transantarctic Mountains to improve age constraints on the structures; and 4) integrate the late Cenozoic structural interpretations from the western Ross Sea with Southern Ocean plate boundary kinematics.
Kyle OPP 9527329 Abstract The Cape Roberts Project is an international drilling project to obtain a series of cores from the sedimentary strata beneath the sea floor off Cape Roberts in the Ross Sea. The project is a joint venture by scientists from the national Antarctic programs of Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom., Australia, and the United States. Drilling will continuously core a composite section of sediments over 1500 m thick which is expected to represent parts of the time period between 30 and more than 100 million years ago. The principle objectives of this component of the project will be to examine the record of igneous material in the drill core and provide high precision 40Ar/39Ar dates from tephra (volcanic ash) layers, disseminated ash, feldspars and epiclastic volcanic detrital grains to constrain depositional age and provenance of the sediments in the cores. This project will contribute to general geologic logging of the core and will characterize any igneous material using electron microprobe, x-ray fluorescence (XRF) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) analyses. The presence of alkalic volcanic detritus from the Cenozoic McMurdo Volcanics will constrain the initiation of this phase of volcanism and improve our understanding of the relationship between volcanism and tectonism. The influx of sediments eroded from Jurassic Kirkpatrick Basalts and Ferrar Dolerites will be used to time the unroofing and rates of uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains. Geochemical analyses of core samples will examine the geochemistry and provenance of the sediments.