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
Collaborative Research: Byrd Glacier flow dynamics

Program Manager:
Dr. Julie Palais


ASC POC/Implementer:
Leslie Blank / Brian Johnson

Dr. Leigh Stearns (Principal Investigator)

University of Kansas Lawrence
Department of Geology
Lawrence, Kansas

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Byrd Glacier

Project Description:
The overall aim of this project is to improve our understanding of outlet glacier dynamics in East Antarctica through an in-depth field study of Byrd Glacier. Project researchers will test several hypotheses: (1) Byrd Glacier experiences variability in flow speed at a variety of timescales (daily to seasonal to annual) as a response to tidal and hydrological forcings; (2) the configuration of Byrd Glacier's grounding line makes it susceptible to rapid retreat up the fjord; and (3) subglacial lakes in the catchment fill and drain on a regular basis and provide periodic forcing of a glacier flow response. This multi-disciplinary project will install a dense network of GPS receivers on the grounded glacier and floating ice shelf. The GPS observations will be merged with remote sensing datasets to examine spatial and temporal variability in glacier flow, and constrain a numerical model of the glacier's dynamics. This work will provide new insights into the basal boundary conditions of "isbrae"-type outlet glaciers, and the e ffect of transient perturbations (e.g., ocean tides, subglacial floods) on their flow regime.

Field Season Overview:
The project team will deploy once in the austral spring (October/November) and again in the austral fall (January/February). From their McMurdo base, they will make helicopter-supported day-trips to perform maintenance on a network of GPS receivers deployed at eight sites on and surrounding Byrd Glacier. These sites were last visited in February 2012. During the second deployment in February 2013, all on-ice installations will be removed, marking the end of this three-season field campaign. Three remaining instruments installed on mountaintops overlooking the glacier will be transferred to the custody of the POLENET project.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Peter Braddock
  • Sarah Child
  • Gordon Hamilton (Co-PI)
  • Jessica Scheick
  • Leigh Stearns (PI)

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