Collaborative Research: Establishing the Chronology and Histories of Accumulation and Ice Dynamics for the WAIS Divide Core
WAIS Divide Ice Core
This award supports a project to help to establish the depth-age chronology and the histories of accumulation and ice dynamics for the WAIS Divide ice core. The depth-age relationship and the histories of accumulation and ice dynamics are coupled. An accurate age scale is needed to infer histories of accumulation rate and ice-thickness change using ice-flow models. In turn, the accumulation-rate history is needed to calculate the age difference of ice to determine the age of the trapped gases. The accumulation history is also needed to calculate atmospheric concentrations of impurities trapped in the ice and is an important characteristic of climate. The history of ice-thickness change is also fundamental to understanding the stability of the WAIS. The primary goals of the WAIS Divide ice core project are to investigate climate forcing by greenhouse gases, the initiation of climate changes, and the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). An accurate age scale is fundamental for achieving these goals. The first objective of this project is to establish an annually resolved depth-age relationship for the past 40,000 years. This will be done by measuring variations in electrical conductivity along the ice core, which are caused by seasonal variations in chemistry. We expect to be able to resolve annual layers back to 40,000 years before present (3,000 m depth) using this method. The second objective is to search for stratigraphic disturbances in the core that would compromise the paleoclimate record. Irregular layering will be identified by measuring the electrical conductivity of the ice in a vertical plan through the core. The third objective is to derive a preliminary chronology for the entire core. For the deeper ice we will use an ice-flow model to interpolate between known age markers, such as dated volcanic horizons and tie points from the methane gas chronology. The fourth objective is to derive a refined chronology simultaneously with histories of accumulation and ice-sheet thickness. An ice-flow model and all available data will be used to formulate an inverse problem, in which we infer the most appropriate histories of accumulation and ice-thickness, together with estimates of uncertainties. The flow model associated with those preferred histories then produces the best estimate of the chronology. The research contributes directly to the primary goals of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative. The project will help develop the next generation of scientists through the education and training of one Ph.D. student and several undergraduate students. This project will result in instrumentation for measuring the electrical conductivity of ice cores being available at the National Ice Core Lab for other researchers to use on other projects. All collaborators are committed to fostering diversity and currently participate in scientific outreach and most participate in undergraduate education. Outreach will be accomplished through regularly scheduled community and K-12 outreach events at UW, talks and popular writing by the PIs, as well as through our respective press offices.
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