Collaborative Research: Application of Distributed Temperature Sensors (DTS) for Antarctic Ice Shelves and Cavities
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.
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).
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.
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