Scientists study Antarctic ice loss

University scientists are to take part in a trip to investigate ice loss at a glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The researchers will join a British team seeking to find out the cause of the recent rapid ice loss on Pine Island Glacier.

They will also try to determine whether ice loss is likely to continue to increase or slow down.

Their research is important for understanding the likely impact on future sea-level rise.

Water balance

There are few parts of our planet that are changing as fast as Pine Island Glacier and which could have such an individually significant impact on sea levels around the world.
Dr Robert BinghamSchool of GeoSciences

Scientists had previously believed that the volume of water flowing from Antarctica’s melting glaciers and icebergs into the ocean was equal to the amount of water falling as snow onto the ice sheet.

It was thought that that this process was keeping the whole system in balance.

However, Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are losing ice at a faster rate than they are being replenished, which affects sea levels all over the world.

Scientists are surprised by the speed of changes to this region, and hope to find out what is taking place.

Rapid changes

A programme of four projects, known as iSTAR, will begin in November this year, focussed on finding out what is causing the rapid changes observed in the Amundsen Sea region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Teams will travel to the region to measure changes to the flow and thickness of glaciers and investigate the role that the ocean plays in transporting warm water beneath ice shelves.

Taking part in the study are Dr Robert Bingham and Damon Davies of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences.

The iSTAR programme - investigating the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet - is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

It is vital that we obtain a better handle on what’s causing this behaviour and how it might impact on people who live in coastal areas around the world.
Dr Robert BinghamSchool of GeoSciences