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Durham University

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Understanding Contemporary Change in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

A research project of the Department of Geography.


The overall aim of this project is to better understand the observed on-going changes of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) by the development and application of an appropriate numerical ice-flow model. The overall project is led by Professor A.J. Payne (principle investigator, Bristol), Dr Andreas Vieli (co-investigator, Durham), Dr Poul Cristofferson and Dr Marion Bougamont (both co-investigators, Cambridge). Four post-doctoral Research Associates are working project at three different institutions and address the following main subjects:

  • Incorporation and application of higher-order ice-flow model (Bristol)
  • Assimilation of flow velocities into model to constrain and investigate basal conditions and rheology of ice shelves and streams (Durham)
  • Implementation and application of subglacial rheological processes into ice sheet model (Cambridge)

The Durham part of the project employs 2 PDRAs and focuses on the data assimilation side of the project. The objective is to further develop software that assimilates ice velocity information into a flow model, and apply this tool to a wide selection of WAIS ice shelves and streams in order to generate information on patterns of ice thickness, melt rates and ice rheology and determine the spatial pattern of subglacial control on ice stream flow.


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