Under the Glacier!

The team makes it to the EGT grounding line! (And penguins!)

THobbs Field Dispatches

Photo credit: Britney Schmidt

We have made it, folks. Yesterday Icefin was driven under Erebus Glacier Tongue towards the grounding line! In the image below you can see the glacier tongue, which is the jagged piece of thick ice extending into the sea ice. For scale, our camp is the cluster of dark blobs near the center-left of the photo, in the corner between the glacier and land ice. This has been a major goal of the season, for several reasons.

Photo credit: Spencer Niebuhr

Firstly, and most importantly, the grounding line is a very difficult place to image. It’s the spot where a glacier, which is land-based ice that flows under its own weight, loses contact with the ground and begins floating in a body of water. While we can learn about this area using radar, a person or ship can’t actually swim or drive down to it. That’s…

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2 responses to “Under the Glacier!

  1. Hello, my name is Jose and I attend Central Arizona College. We’ve been learning about the environment and I’m just curious to know if its really true that the ice is melting at a rapid speed due to climate change.

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    • Hi Jose,

      The evidence is indeed strong that the ice is melting due to a warming of the planet. It’s a classic positive feedback loop – with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the suns radiation is reflected back towards the planet, creating a greenhouse effect, which warms the planet. Some of this heat is absorbed by the oceans, warming them, and some is retained in the atmosphere. This warming climate melts the ice from both above (the atmosphere) and below (the oceans). As the ice melts, it releases more carbon dioxide that was trapped inside for millions of year, thus accelerating the cycle. One of the goals of our work in Antarctica is to determine how quickly the ice is melting. Currently, we base our estimates on models and some experimental data, but most of that data comes from the atmosphere, rather than the oceans. One of the things we’re interested in is the melt rate from underneath the ice shelves.

      Stay tuned to the blog for research updates on this important topic!

      Ben

      Liked by 1 person

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