2023-24 Science Highlights

The 2023-2024 British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Science Season is packed with fascinating science projects, covering field, station, and ship-based research projects. 

BAS excels in delivering field support for big science projects that address the most urgent questions facing society.

Many of these projects will ultimately provide information needed by policymakers and are of the highest importance to everyone. These large projects are delivered through collaborations involving multiple partners, either UK-only or including international scientists.  

Highlight science projects 

BIOPOLE:  This project, led by BAS will be the first major, peer-reviewed science cruise on the RRS Sir David Attenborough in November 2023, investigating how Antarctic ecosystems regulate the balance of carbon and nutrients in global oceans.  

PICCOLO: Early in 2024, the PICCOLO cruise, led by UK colleagues, in the Weddell Sea will look at the biological and chemical processes that draw carbon into the deep ocean.  

Both projects will progress our understanding of how climate change will affect ocean health and food stocks, and the natural processes that sequester carbon and moderate global warming. 

International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC): The joint UK-US project targets one of the largest and most unstable glaciers in West Antarctica, aiming to understand and quantify the processes that are driving this change. Key projects within ITGC this season are GHOST which will analyse the geology below Thwaites Glacier to determine its impact on the glacier’s dynamics; and TIME which is assessing the health and stability of the boundary between the fast-moving glacier and the slower-moving surrounding ice sheet. Both projects are ultimately trying to determine how soon and how fast the Thwaites Glacier is contributing to global sea-level rise.  

Halley research station, will host the RIFT TIP project which aims to accurately model the growth of cracks in ice sheets, which influence the stability of the ice shelf and the rate of sea-level rise. The project builds on a decade of data taken at the station, a period in which several major calving events have reshaped the Brunt ice shelf. 

At Rothera research station  the Clean Air Facility at East Beach continues the crucial Southern Ocean Clouds project, which aims to improve our understanding of the formation of high-latitude mixed-phase clouds. These clouds offer some of the biggest remaining uncertainties in climate modelling, which has an impact on the accurate modelling of other processes such as oceanic and atmospheric circulation, and even changes in Antarctic ice sheets.  

At King Edward point  in South Georgia, the Hungry Humpbacks project will study the foraging habits of whales to understand how this varies through a year. The findings will feed into fishing regulations, creating the first baseline measurements of krill consumption in these waters by whales across seasons. 

At Bird Island and Signy research stations our long-term science projects studying marine predators continue, providing scientists and conservationists with indicators of change for species such as wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses, northern and southern giant petrels, macaroni penguins, Antarctic fur and leopard seals, and gentoo penguins. 

As ever our scientists continue to collaborate with other national Antarctic operators and institutes. A BAS team will drill through the Fimbul Ice Shelf using hot water drilling and is involved in Beyond Epica to locate the oldest continuous ice record reaching back 1.5 million years in East Antarctica.  

Ongoing research activity 

Alongside our season field activity, we continue to work with international collaborators on a wide variety of science programmes. 

  • Changing sea ice conditions in Antarctica will be better understood through programmes likeDEFIANT,  
  • OCEAN:ICE is exploring how the ice and ocean interacts and are changing as our climate warms.  
  • MesoS2Dwill accurately predict impacts of space weather and climate variability on the whole atmosphere,  
  • SWIMMR-Tis studying the effects of space debris on spacecraft  
  • Looking north,KANG-GLAC in 2024 will explore the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and its impact on ocean circulation and marine productivity.  
  • Our polar expertise will continue to look at past, present and future water security in the mountains in the European Alps and Himalayas through The Big Thaw. 
  • SURFEIT  will bring together the international scientific community to increase our understanding of how exchange of mass and energy between the surface of the Antarctic ice sheet and the atmosphere impacts sea level rise. 

 Interesting Links:

Read the full range of science projects on our BAS research projects portal 

See our long-term data sets at the UK Polar Data Centre 

Take a virtual visit to some of our stations Virtual Visits to the Polar Regions