There is a suggestion that the ocean is providing more heat to melt the underside of the ice than it used to do. Although only a few degrees above freezing, ocean water is warm enough to give up a lot of heat as it washes underneath. At present, no one knows exactly how ocean water gets beneath the glacier but there are a number of possible explanations that we will test. It may be that the wind forces the water there; it could be waves going round the Antarctic continent; or it may be that the sea floor troughs that were gouged by glaciers thousands of years ago channel water up.
Our mission is to improve understanding of what’s happening to the area of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet where the greatest rates of ice loss over the last decades have been observed. New knowledge about the stability of this ice sheet is critical for making better predictions about how the ocean and ice will respond to environmental change, and what impact this may have on future sea level.
Our research goal
Our aim is to discover how and why warm ocean water gets close to the ice. Using innovative technologies will make measurements and observations that are essential for improving a wide variety of computer models used by the international scientific community to forecast future climate and sea level. These range from highly sophisticated and complex climate models that try to include the interactions between ice, ocean and atmosphere, to the much simpler models that test our understanding of the physics at play.