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The Antarctic Ellsworth Mountains Blue-ice Project

Sampling Ellsworth Nunataks

Did the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) survive the last interglacial? We are using nunataks as dipsticks of ice-sheet elevation change to answer this question.

Two hypotheses...

One hypothesis is that the WAIS disappeared under last-interglacial conditions ~120,000 years ago when climatic and oceanic conditions were slightly warmer than those of the present day (Dynamic).

Another hypothesis suggests the WAIS may have varied in elevation but that it persisted as a coherent ice sheet during the last interglacial (Stable).

The co-existence of two opposing hypotheses implies that we have a limited level of understanding of the principal controls on ice-sheet stability. In turn this undermines attempts to predict the future of the WAIS and its effect on global sea-level change.

People involved in this project:

  • Prof. David Sugden (Edinburgh)
  • Prof. John Woodward (Northumbria)
  • Dr. Andy Hein (Edinburgh)
  • Dr. Stuart Dunning (Newcastle)
  • Dr. Shasta Marrero (Edinburgh)
  • Dr. Matt Westoby (Northumbria)
  • Kate Winter (Northumbria)
Profiles of Edinburgh scientists
The Ellsworth Mountains Blue-ice Project Blog (Andy Hein, posting from Antarctica)

This project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/1025840/1).

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