Project Information
Paleohistory of the Larsen Ice Shelf: Evidence from the Marine Record
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This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, supports research to study the region recently occupied by the Larsen Ice Shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula. Over the last 10 years, scientists have observed a dramatic decay and disintegration of floating ice shelves along the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Meteorological records and satellite observations indicate that this catastrophic decay is related to regional warming of nearly 3 degrees C in the last 50 years. While such retreat of floating ice shelves is unprecedented in historic records, current understanding of the natural variability of ice shelf systems over the last few thousand years is not understood well. This award supports a program of marine geologic research directed at filling this knowledge gap by developing an understanding of the dynamics of the northern Larsen Ice Shelf during the Holocene epoch (the last 10,000 years).

The Larsen Ice Shelf is located in the NW Weddell Sea along the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is currently undergoing a rapid, catastrophic retreat as documented by satellite imagery over the past five years. While the region of the northern Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a pronounced warming trend over the last 40 years, the links between this warming and global change (i.e. greenhouse warming) are not obvious. Yet the ice shelf is clearly receding at a rate unprecedented in historic time, leaving vast areas of the seafloor uncovered and in an open marine setting. This project will collect a series of short sediment cores within the Larsen Inlet and in areas that were at one time covered by the Larsen Ice Shelf. By applying established sediment and fossil criteria to the cores we hope to demonstrate whether the Larsen Ice Shelf has experienced similar periods of retreat and subsequent advance within the last 10,000 years. Past work in various regions of the Antarctic has focused on depositional models for ice shelves that allow one to discern the timing of ice shelf retreat/advance in areas of the Ross Sea, Antarctic Peninsula, and Prydz Bay. This research will lead to a much improved understanding of the dynamics of ice shelf systems and their role in past and future climate oscillations.
Person Role
Domack, Eugene Walter Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 9814383
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
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