Project Information
Estimation of Antarctic Ice Melt using Stable Isotopic Analyses of Seawater
Start Date:
End Date:
Estimating Antarctic ice sheet growth or loss is important to predicting future sea level rise. Such estimates rely on field measurements or remotely sensed based observations of the ice sheet surface, ice margins, and or ice shelves. This work examines the introduction of freshwater into the ocean to surrounding Antarctica to track meltwater from continental ice. Polar ice is depleted in two stable isotopes, 18O and D, deuterium, relative to Southern Ocean seawater and precipitation. Measurements of seawater isotopic composition in conjunction with precise observations of seawater temperature and salinity, will permit discrimination of freshwater derived from melting glacial ice from that derived from regional precipitation or sea ice melt.

This research describes an accepted method for determining rates and locations of meltwater entering the oceans from polar ice sheets. As isotopic and salinity perturbations are cumulative in many Antarctic coastal seas, the method allows for the detection of any marked acceleration in meltwater introduction in specific regions, using samples collected and analyzed over a period of years to decades. Impact of the project derives from use of an independent method capable of constraining knowledge about current ice sheet melt rates, their stability and potential impact on sea level rise. The project allows for sample collection taken from foreign vessels of opportunity sailing in Antarctic waters, and subsequent sharing and interpretation of data. Research partners include the U.S., Korea, China, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Participating collaborators will collect seawater samples for isotopic and salinity analysis at Stanford University. USAP cruises will concentrate on sampling the Ross Sea, and the West Antarctic. The work plan includes interpretation of isotopic data using box model and mixing curve analyses as well as using isotope enabled ROMS (Regional Ocean Modeling System) models. The broader impacts of the research will include development of an educational module that illustrates the scientific method and how ocean observations help society understand how Earth is changing.
Person Role
Dunbar, Robert Investigator and contact
Hennig, Andrew Researcher
Antarctic Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Award # 1644118
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
USAP-DC Antarctic Seawater d18O isotope data from SE Amundsen Sea: 2000, 2007, 2009, 2019, 2020 CSV exists

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