18/01/2019 Glacial History of the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica, to be recovered in IODP Drill Cores

The Amundsen Sea is an embayment of the Antarctic continent in the middle of West Antarctica, several hundreds of miles in either direction along the coast from any of the stations that provide research access to this remote continent. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is largely marine-based and thus highly sensitive to climatic and oceanographic changes. If completely melted, it could result in a global sea-level rise of potentially around 4 meters. The ice that is draining into the Amundsen Sea is considered to be some of the most vulnerable to rapid change in West Antarctica due to the extreme depth at the base of the ice and the incursion of warm ocean currents to the area.

International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 379 will sail from Punta Arenas, Chile, on January 23th, 2019, to the Amundsen Sea and return to Punta Arenas on March 20th. Work will be completed from the JOIDES Resolution, a scientific drill ship that has been used for research since 1985. During the cruise, an international group of 29 scientists will work to recover sedimentary records from the continental shelf and rise of the Amundsen Sea to determine how the ice in the region has behaved in the past in an area unaffected by other ice sheets and that also currently is experiencing the largest ice mass loss in Antarctica. Because of the extreme isolation of the region, even compared to other parts of Antarctica, these will be the first long drill cores ever obtained in the Amundsen Sea. Records of how the ice has behaved under past oceanographic and climatic temperature changes will be used to simulate in computer models of how the region may change in coming decades.

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is an international research collaboration that coordinates seagoing expeditions to study the history of the Earth recorded in sediments and rocks beneath the ocean floor. IODP is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and it’s international partners – the Australia-New Zealand IODP Consortium (ANZIC), the Brazilian Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources (KIGAM), and the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). The JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO) at Texas A&M University operates the scientific drillship JOIDES Resolution on behalf of the NSF. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.

We are pleased to announce that our early career researcher within the sub-seabed work package here at CAGE, Mariana Esteves, will be participating as a sedimentologist on this exciting research expedition to Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica. Mariana recently completed her PhD in Marine Geology, which focused on reconstructing how and why the large ice sheet that once covered Barents Sea retreated and disintegrated since the Last Glacial Maximum (~21,000 years before present day). She hopes to continue her research on the Barents Sea Ice Sheet and combine it with new findings from her trip to West Antarctica.

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