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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

BRITICE‐CHRONO: Constraining Rates and Style of Marine‐Influenced Ice Sheet Decay

A research project of the Department of Geography.

This is a five‐year NERC‐funded consortium of more than 40 researchers comprising glaciologists, marine and terrestrial Quaternary scientists and ice‐sheet modellers. The project started in November 2012. It is led by Chris Clark (Sheffield, overall PI), with a Steering Group comprising Colm O’Cofaigh (Marine Geology), Richard Chiverrell (Terrestrial), Derek Fabel (Geochronology), James Scourse (Oceanography) and Richard Hindmarsh (Ice sheet Modelling). The project involves researchers from eight universities, plus the British Geological Survey, British Antarctic Survey, NERC's radiocarbon facility and Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre. The overall award to the consortium was £3.6 million.

Given concerns about retreat / stability of the marine‐influenced West Antarctic and Greenland ice Sheets, and consequent sea‐level rise, it is imperative that we can predict the future rates of change of these large ice masses. Our current ability to do so is limited and a weakness in climate science. Numerical ice sheet models - capable of making predictions ‐ exist and are being refined, but they have yet to be adequately tested against data on the pattern and timing of a shrinking ice sheet. We are therefore conducting a systematic and directed campaign to collect and date material to constrain the timing and rates of change of the marine‐influenced retreating British‐Irish Ice Sheet.

We will test the following three hypotheses:

  1. that the marine‐influenced sectors collapsed rapidly
  2. that the main ice catchments draining the BIIS retreated synchronously in response to external climatic and sea‐level controls
  3. that the ice‐rafted debris (IRD) fluxes derived from the BIIS on the adjacent continental margin is a function of changes in ice sheet mass balance

Data will be collected from 8 transects from shelf edge to onshore. Terrestrial fieldwork is already well underway. The marine component comprises two NERC funded research cruises that will take place in 2014 and 2015. The goal is that by the end of BRITICE‐CHRONO, the British‐Irish Ice Sheet will become the best constrained anywhere and a benchmark against which predictive ice sheet models can be improved and tested.

Staff

Project Leader

From the Department of Geography

Related links

Further information

For further information, please contact Professor Colm O'Cofaigh.