2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Ice-shelf instability caused by active surface meltwater production, movement, ponding, and hydrofracture

View outside Rothera Station. Photo by Julian Race. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
I-151-E Research Location(s): Rothera Station (UK); Fossil Bluff


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Paul Cutler

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Jane Dell

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Alison Banwell
University of Colorado Boulder


Supporting Stations: Special Project
Research Locations: Rothera Station (UK); Fossil Bluff


This project is a collaboration with a U.K. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)-supported scientist with field support from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The objective is to investigate how surface meltwater production could drive ice-shelf breakup, similar to the type Larson B Ice Shelf demonstrated prior to its collapse. The proposal aims to study break-up by investigating the George VI Ice shelf, which is currently forming surface melt ponds but is in a somewhat stable condition because of its compressional-ice-flow configuration. This work builds on understanding from the team’s previous McMurdo Ice Shelf project and focuses on understanding ice-shelf collapse dynamics through a study of (1) ice-shelf flexure and fracturing, (2) surface melt and hydrology, (3) small-scale ponding and drainages, and (4) process-scale modeling of ice-shelf flexure, fracture, and hydrology.

Field Season Overview

This project will have three science team members plus one BAS field mountaineer deploying to the George VI Ice Shelf site on the Antarctic Peninsula. BAS will provide one BAS field mountaineer, field and safety gear, field food, equipment, kovacs drill with petrol head, 2 kW generator, communications (inc sat.phone and IridiumGO), etc. United States Antarctic Program will assist with cargo for the team, and ticketing for the U.S. participant (Banwell). Once the team arrives to Rothera Station, and have done the required safety courses, they will be flown to Fossil Bluff Station in early November for approximately three weeks. Field work will be restricted to < 30 km of Fossil Bluff. The project seeks to extract firn/ice cores to depths of 10 m to measure seasonal variations in vertical density profiles, however these cores will not be shipped back, they will be left in the field. The team will also harvest as much data from the instruments as possible, and then retrieve all instruments from the ice, to be taken back to Rothera Station, then the U.S.

Deploying Team Members

  • Alison Banwell (PI)
  • Rebecca Dell
  • Ian Willis (Co-PI)