2002-2003 Science Planning Summary


Dr. Julie Palais
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 97-25057
Station: McMurdo Station
Research Site(s): Traverse from Byrd Surface Camp to South Pole

U.S. ITASE: Science management for the United States component of the International Trans Antarctic Expedition
Dr. Paul A. Mayewski
University of Maine
Institute for Quaternary and Climate Studies

Deploying Team Members: Steven A Arcone . Daniel Dixon . Markus M Frey . Gordon S Hamilton . Susan D Kaspari . James G Laatsch . Paul A Mayewski . David Schneider . Vandy B Spikes . Leigh A Stearns . Eric Stieg . Brian Welch . Mark A Wumkes . Elizabeth F Youngman . Joseph R McConnell
Research Objectives: Formulated in 1990, the International Trans Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) aims to describe and understand environmental change in Antarctica over the last 200 years. ITASE objectives have been adopted as a key science initiative by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The 200-year period was chosen because it covers the onset of major anthropogenic involvement in the atmosphere and the end of the Little Ice Age.

U.S. involvement in ITASE is consistent with the objectives established in NSF's Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the United States Antarctic Program (SEIPS, 1990), ITASE will provide an environmental framework from which to assess change. Further, the aims of ITASE closely parallel the objectives of NSF's Global Change Research Program, which emphasizes the need for the collection of paleoclimate records, understanding ocean-atmosphere-land-ice interactions, and scaling of dynamic behavior and biogeochemical cycling.

Spanning field seasons from 1997 to 2007, US ITASE focuses on West Antarctica -- a site of major US glaciological activity for more than a decade. As a component of WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative), the US ITASE effort entails a four-phase approach:

1. Meteorological modeling and remote sensing will be used to plan sampling strategies conducive to the major objectives of US ITASE,

2. Ground-based sampling (ice cores, radar and surface sampling),

3. Continued monitoring at key sites (meteorology and ice dynamics), and

4. Interpretation and modeling.

In each of four research corridors, ground-based sampling techniques are used to collect 200-year-long ice cores at 100 kilometer intervals. Complementary studies in meteorology, remote sensing, and surface geophysics are integrated with the coring program. These multi- disciplinary studies are taking over several years and provide another level of coordination and collaboration among disparate projects that are already planned or underway in West Antarctica. US ITASE is intended to act as a scientific glue for these projects.

U.S. ITASE provides an important spatial perspective for the shared research goals of a variety of research programs funded by the NSF, NASA and NOAA. By the integration of US ITASE with the ITASE activities of other countries, major contributions will be made to our understanding of Antarctica's role in global change.

Field Season Overview:
The ITASE project team and support contractor staff traverse West Antarctica from Byrd Surface Camp (BSC) to South Pole Station. Two trains pulled by Challenger 55 Caterpillar tractors will transport personnel, instruments, and field camp equipment. Along the way, team members will collect ice cores and surface snow and ice samples, take meteorological readings, and collect radar profiles of the ice sheet. Periodically, Twin Otter aircraft will resupply the traverse team and transport samples back to Byrd Surface Camp. At the end of the traverse, the group will return to McMurdo Station where they will begin to analyze some of their samples. Other samples will be returned to their home institutions.