iSTAR-B Ocean circulation and melting beneath the ice shelves of the south-eastern Amundsen Sea

iSTAR-B Ocean circulation and melting beneath the ice shelves of the south-eastern Amundsen Sea

Start date
1 April, 2013
End date
31 March, 2017

Our science challenge

The speed of changes to the West Antarctic ice sheet, where Pine Island Glacier flows into the sea at Pine Island Bay, has taken scientists by surprise. This vast river of ice carries as much water as the River Rhine in frozen form. The last 60 km of the glacier floats on the waters of Pine Island Bay, and the bottom melts so intensely that half of the ice carried in the glacier is lost within the space of 30 years. Pine Island Bay is geographically the far south of the Pacific Ocean, and the image of warmth that this conjures up is not entirely misplaced. The air temperatures rarely rise above freezing, but beneath the cold surface of the sea, water temperatures rise as high as 1 degree Celsius – well above the freezing point.





Our research goal

Our research mission is to understand what “warm” and “rapid” really mean for Pine Island Glacier.  We want to understand what might cause the ocean temperature to change and if it does, by even a small amount, how this will affect the melt-rate change.

To find the answers to those questions we must make measurements of the water temperature beneath the glacier, and simultaneous measurements of the rate at which the base of the glacier is melting into the ocean, but to do so is enormously challenging. The glacier is between 300 m and 1 km thick and difficult to access its base. To achieve our goal we will use cutting-edge technology.

A man standing in front of a body of water.

Pierre Dutrieux

Shelf Seas Group Leader

Polar Oceans team

Project Team

Local weather plays part in retreat of glacier

17 February, 2017

Local weather plays an important part in the retreat of the ice shelves in West Antarctica, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications today (Friday 17 February). …