Collaborative Research: Investigating Four Decades of Ross Ice Shelf Subsurface Change with Historical and Modern Radar Sounding Data
Ice shelves play a critical role in restricting the seaward flow of grounded ice by providing buttressing at their bases and sides. Processes that affect the long-term stability of ice shelves can therefore impact the future contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to global sea-level rise. Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf on Earth, and it buttresses massive areas of West and East Antarctica. Previous studies of modern ice velocity indicate that Ross Ice Shelf’s mass loss is roughly balanced by its mass gain. However, more recent remote sensing observations extended further back in time reveal the ice shelf is likely not in steady-state, including possible long-term thinning since the late 90s. Therefore, to accurately interpret modern days ice shelf changes, long-term observations are critical to evaluate how these short-term variations fit into the historical context of ice shelf variability. This project examines over four decades (1971 – 2017) of historical and modern airborne radar sounding observations of the Ross Ice Shelf to investigate ice-shelf changes on the decadal timescales. The researchers will process, calibrate, and analyze radar data collected during the 1971-79 SPRI/NSF/TUD campaign and compare them against modern observations from both the 2011-17 NASA Operation IceBridge/NSF CReSIS and the 2015-17 ROSETTA-Ice surveys. They will estimate basal melt rates by examining changes in ice-shelf thickness. They will determine other important basal melt metrics, including ice shelf roughness, englacial temperature, and marine ice formation. This project will support the education of a Ph.D. student from each of the institutions. This project will also support the training of undergraduate and high school researchers more generally in the field of radioglaciology and Antarctic sciences.
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