Antarctic Climate over the last millennia

Climate variability in the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica over the last millennia

The Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica have warmed dramatically in recent decades, with some climate records indicating that these are among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. The Antarctic Peninsula has seen a widespread retreat of marine glacier fronts and disintegration of floating ice shelves,  whilst in the Amundsen coast region the extensive thinning of fast flowing glaciers has made this region one of the largest Antarctic contributors to sea-level rise.

Instrumental records from this region do not extend far back enough to interpret the significance of these recent trends. However, a series of ice cores, extending from the Antarctic Peninsula into West Antarctica, have been drilled in order to reconstruct the past climate and atmospheric circulation beyond the instrumental period. Together with reanalysis data and climate modelling, the new records will help us understand climate dynamics in this region, and its links to large-scale atmospheric circulation, over centennial to millennial timescales.

Ice core drilling:

The BAS ice core group has led three ice core drilling seasons between 2006- 2012 to retrieve a series of six ~140m ice cores extending from southern Palmer Land to the Amundsen Sea coast. A further ten 50m ice cores were drilled in 2014-2015 on Pine Island Glacier as part of the iSTAR traverse. In addition, The James Ross Island ice core was drilled in 2008 to bedrock at 363m depth, in collaboration with the French National Center for Drilling and Coring.

Data and laboratories:

Our state of the art ice core analytical chemistry laboratory suite includes wet chemistry laboratories, a class-100 clean laboratory and a -25° C cold laboratory. We use a suite of ion chromatograph (IC) systems (including capillary IC systems) for discrete ice core analysis. In addition, we have developed a continuous flow analysis (CFA) system coupled to an inductively coupled plasma -mass spectrometer (ICPMS) and a fast ion chromatography system (FIC), for on line ice core melting and acquisition of high-resolution glaciochemical data. Water stable isotope records are measured both in house and in collaboration with the NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory.

  • Reconstruct past surface temperatures, snow accumulation and atmospheric circulation in the Antarctic Peninsula and Ellsworth Land on centennial to millennial timescales
  • Reconstruct past sea ice conditions in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas
  • Investigate climate dynamics and the role of large-scale atmospheric circulation
  • Develop novel climate proxies and new methods of high-resolution chemical analysis

External collaborators:

Nerilie Abram, QEII Research Fellow (Australian Research Council) Research School of Earth Sciences Australian National University

Melanie Lang and Carol Arrowsmith, NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory NIGL

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