2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
IPY: Collaborative Research: Ocean-ice sheet interaction in the Amundsen Sea: The keystone of West Antarctic stability
Geophysical information collected by old and new technology (GPS, seismometers, cameras and ocean sensors deployed in hot water drill holes) reveals what may be happening under Pine Island Glacier. Graphic copyright Frank Ippolito. 

Program Manager:
Dr. Sonia Esperanca


ASC POC/Implementer:
Leslie Blank / Kevin Gibbons

Dr. Robert Bindschadler (Principal Investigator)
http://pigiceshelf.nasa.govExternal U.S. Government Site

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Maryland

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Pine Island Glacier

Project Description:
Rapid changes to the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) where it flows into the Amundsen Sea may be caused by weakening of the floating ice shelf that helps hold the ice sheet in place. Researchers hypothesize that warm water is melting the undersides of these ice shelves decreasing the back pressure, allowing the ice sheet to flow faster and leading to a smaller ice sheet which eventually leads to higher sea levels and slow motion coastal flooding worldwide. Satellite observations can identify ice sheet changes but they cannot reveal conditions under the ice. This fieldwork will make direct observations of the ice beneath the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) including geophysical features of the sub-shelf cavity and cavity bed, water properties within the ice cavity, flow geometry, and visual appearance (using photography). These direct measurements will be fed into advanced computer models of ocean and ice characteristics to shed light on these changes.

Field Season Overview:
The goal for this field season is to establish a science camp on the ice shelf at three successive locations at which ocean instrumentation will be deployed beneath the ice shelf through holes melted using a hot water drill. Cameras, lowered into these hole prior to ocean instrument deployment, will explore the cavity and underside of the ice shelf. Geophysical measurements will be conducted along surface traverses and at up to 30 more remote locations on the ice shelf. Data from ten instruments (five GPS, five seismometers) deployed on the ice shelf last season will be collected and the instruments possibly relocated. Put-in, take-out and resupply will be supported by a combination of LC-130, Twin Otter and surface traverse. Local support includes helicopters and will be based at the PIG main camp which was established last season.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Sridhar Anandakrishnan (Co-PI)
  • Alberto Behar (Co-PI)
  • Robert Bindschadler (PI)
  • Carl Gladish
  • David Holland (Co-PI)
  • Leo Peters
  • Dale Pomraning
  • William Shaw
  • William Shaw
  • Michael Shortt
  • Christina Stam
  • Timothy Stanton (Co-PI)
  • Einar Steinarsson
  • James Stockel
  • James Stockel
  • Martin Truffer (Co-PI)

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs