2015-2016 Science Planning Summaries
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2015-2016 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

West Antarctic Ice Sheet stability, alpine glaciation, and climate variability: A terrestrial perspective from cosmogenic-nuclide dating in McMurdo Sound

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Thomas Wilch

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Meghan Walker

Principal Investigator

Dr. David R Marchant

Boston University
Department of Earth Sciences
Boston, Massachusetts

Project Web Site:
http://people.bu.edu/marchant/ External Web Site


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Mount Discovery / Black Island / Brown Peninsula


This project will develop high-resolution maps of drifts deposited from grounded marine-based ice and alpine glaciers on islands and peninsulas in McMurdo Sound. In addition, researchers will acquire multi-clast/multi-nuclide cosmogenic analyses of these mapped drift sheets and alpine moraines. They will use regional climate modeling to shed light on the range of possible environmental conditions in the McMurdo region during periods of grounded-ice expansion and recession. The researchers will also make use of geological records for ice sheet and alpine glacier fluctuations preserved on the flanks of Mount Discovery, Black Island, and Brown Peninsula. Drifts deposited from grounded, marine-based ice will yield spatial constraints for former advances and retreats of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Moraines from alpine glaciers, hypothesized to be of interglacial origin, could yield a first-order record of hydrologic change in the region. Synthesizing the field data, the team proposes to improve the resolution of existing regional-scale climate models for the Ross Embayment. The overall approach and anticipated results will provide the first steps towards linking the marine and terrestrial records in this critical sector of Antarctica.

Field Season Overview

This project aims to provide chronological control for past fluctuations of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and alpine glaciers in McMurdo Sound, with results complementing the ANDRILL marine record. Five people will deploy to McMurdo Station to conduct glacial-geologic mapping and cosmogenic-nuclide sample collection. Four small tent campsites will be required: one on Mount Discovery, two on Black Island, and one on Sperm Bluff. Field team members will travel by helicopter to these camp sites and conduct research within walking distance of each site. Helicopter close support will be used to access nearby sites as well as glacial moraines across the islands and peninsulas of McMurdo Sound. One mid-season participant swap will occur. Rock and ice samples will be shipped to home institutions for analysis.

Deploying Team Members

  • Emelia Chamberlain
  • Andrew Christ (Team Leader)
  • David Marchant (PI)
  • Natalie Robinson
  • Daniel Rybarczyk