2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

MAGIC-DML: Mapping/Measuring/Modeling Antarctic Geomorphology and Ice Change in Dronning Maud Land

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Paul Cutler

ASC POC/Implementer:

Principal Investigator

Dr. Jonathan M Harbor

Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: U
Research Locations:


Reconstructing and predicting the response of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to climate change is a major challenge facing the Earth Science community. Computer models of ice sheet behavior are central to addressing this challenge. In this project we will test and improve ice sheet models by comparing model predictions of past ice extent to the geologic record in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. This innovative project will collect key geologic data from mountains called nunataks that extend above current and former ice levels that can be used as "dipsticks" to reconstruct changes in ice elevation that will be used to improve the models. The end result will be both much better knowledge of past three-dimensional changes of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, and improved models that allow for more accurate simulations of potential future changes in the ice sheet.

This research will fill critical gaps in the geologic record of the pattern and timing of vertical changes in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in western Dronning Maud Land, by focusing on areas that are critical for differentiating between possible models of past ice sheet configuration. Reconstruction of ice-sheet surface changes will involve mapping and cosmogenic nuclide dating of glacially sculpted bedrock, ice-marginal moraines, and erratic boulders at different elevations on nunataks. Patterns of 10Be, 26Al, 14C, and 21Ne concentrations and ratios will enable inferences about the timing and magnitude of changes in maximum ice surface elevations and periods of burial by non-erosive (cold-based) ice. Results will be integrated with data from other areas to provide insight into changes across the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet, and into the role of large ice sheets in climate evolution and global sea level changes. The field-based results will provide constraints against which predictive ice sheet models will be tested and improved, contributing to glaciology, climate and Quaternary science. Broader impacts of this study will also advance the development of the next generation of STEM students and polar scientists. While gaining experience in international collaboration, field and laboratory methods, data analysis, and modeling, two graduate students will work with teachers to develop, implement, and disseminate standards-based lesson plans for student activities linking this research to learning objectives for middle school science.

Field Season Overview

The field season is being organized by Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (Henrik Tornberg lead, Magnus Augner director). The group will consist of 4 scientists and 4 SPRS staff. Two of the scientists are supported by the NSF grant (Professor Nat Lifton and Graduate student Jenny Newall from Purdue University), and the other scientists are Prof Neil Glasser (UK) and Dr. Ola Fredin (Norway). SPRS is arranging for flights to/from Antarctica with the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI). Current dates are Outbound: Depart 7th Jan from Oslo Return: Arriving Oslo 1st March However dates could be changed as NPI finalizes the schedule. Field team participant Newall is traveling to meet with other international team members before and after the field season, and so has a more complex travel schedule than participant Lifton.

The work of the team focuses on collecting rock samples from Nunataks along transects in Queen Maud Land. The team will start at Wasa, and travel using arctic trucks to nunataks along a coast-inland transect and then a coast-parallel transect. At each nunatak that is selected for study, the team will collect rock samples from glacial landforms (moraines and ice-scoured surfaces) along an ice surface to nunatak peak transect. These samples will be used for cosmogenic nuclide exposure age dating that will provide a chronology of ice surface change.

Deploying Team Members

  • Nathaniel Lifton (Co-PI)
  • Jennifer Newall