Researchers plan biggest ever Antarctic field campaign

Posted: April 30, 2018 by oldbrew in geothermal, modelling, News, research, volcanos
Tags: ,

The edge of the Thwaites glacier [credit: NASA photograph by Jim Yungel]

This BBC report seems unaware that a study in 2014 found that parts of the Thwaites Glacier are subject to melting due to subglacial volcanoes and other geothermal “hotspots”. The existence of this group of volcanoes has long been known.

British and American scientists will assess the stability of one of Antarctica’s biggest ice streams, reports BBC News.

It is going to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Antarctica.

UK and US scientists will lead a five-year effort to examine the stability of the mighty Thwaites Glacier.

This ice stream in the west of the continent is comparable in size to Britain. It is melting and is currently in rapid retreat, accounting for around 4% of global sea-level rise – an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s.

Researchers want to know if Thwaites could collapse. Were it to do so, its lost ice would push up the oceans by 80cm or more.

Some computer models have suggested such an outcome is inevitable if conditions continue as they are – albeit on a timescale of centuries. But these simulations need to be anchored in many more real-world observations, which will now be acquired thanks to the joint initiative announced on Monday.

“There is still a question in my view as to whether Thwaites has actually entered an irreversible retreat,” said Prof David Vaughan, the director of science at the British Antarctic Survey.

“It assumes the melt rates we see today continue into the future and that’s not guaranteed. Thwaites is clearly on the verge of an irreversible retreat, but to be sure we need 10 years more data,” he told BBC News.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council and the US National Science Foundation are going to deploy about 100 scientists to Thwaites on a series of expeditions.

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is the two nations’ biggest cooperative venture on the White Continent for more than 70 years – since the end of a mapping project on the Antarctic Peninsula in the late 1940s.

Grants for research totalling £20m have been awarded. Once the costs of transport and resupply to this remotest of regions is factored in, the total value of the ITGC will probably top £40m.

Thwaites is a marine-terminating glacier. Snows fall on land and these compact into ice that then flows out to sea.

Continued here.

See also: Antarctica’s warm underbelly revealed | BBC Science News

NASA Study: Mass Gains of Antarctic Ice Sheet Greater than Losses (2015)

  1. Jamie Spry says:

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    JUST saw the BBC report. And yes, no mention of the undersea volcanoes causing regional warming of the western Antarctic Ocean. Nor any mention of the BBC’s own 2018 report:

    “BIG increase in snowfall in Antarctica with “The effect of the extra snow locked up in Antarctica is to slightly slow a general trend in global sea-level rise.” – BBC

    As far as I am aware, the weight of this extra snow creates enough weight for glaciers to sheer – a completely natural process. No mention of this by the BBC either…

    ‘Bias by omission’ – the most dangerous and insidious form of propaganda.


  2. It is not true the rate of sea level rise has doubled since mid 90s
    Satellites were launched which ‘measure’ sea levels and these show a higher rate of sea level rise. Though, as Nils-Axel Morner has pointed out, there is plenty of processing of satellite data which provides ample opportunity to make any adjustments you like.

    Prior to satellites sea levels where measured by tide gauges by the coast. Satellites measure ocean levels, so tide gauges and satellites are not measuring the same thing. And, surprise surprise, tide gauges continue to show similar rates of sea level rise to before mid 90s.

    If interested anyone can download tide gauge data from and plot results as I have done

    It is true for a few years after Mount Pinatubo eruption ( sea levels rose at a faster rate as they recovered from being lowered by the eruption.

  3. oldbrew says:

    The same BBC reporter wrote this in November 2017…

    Antarctica’s warm underbelly revealed

    By Jonathan Amos
    BBC Science Correspondent
    13 November 2017

    This is the best map yet produced of the warmth coming up from the rocks underneath the Antarctic ice sheet.
    [map caption: ‘Hotspots are located under West Antarctica; in contrast, the East is broadly relatively cold’]

    This “geothermal heat flux” is key data required by scientists in order to model how the White Continent is going to react to climate change.

    If the rock bed’s temperature is raised, it makes it easier for the ice above to move.
    – – –
    The Thwaites Glacier is clearly shown on the map next to the largest red patch of ‘heat flux’. Numerous volcanoes are also present in that area (white circles on the map).

    Why they are wittering about ‘global’ warming here is a mystery. Even the BBC’s own caption to the map says ‘the East [of Antarctica] is broadly relatively cold’.

  4. Bitter&twisted says:

    Complaint to BBC submitted (‘Bias by omission)- I advise others to do the same.

  5. ivan says:

    Get your money while you can the scam may be ending soon.

    Why is it that all so called ‘scientists’ that have anything to do with the environment consistently show themselves up as very dumb? I assume chasing ‘research’ grants is their only excuse.

  6. stpaulchuck says:

    the object of this Klimat Kabuki is to write dozens of alarming papers screaming about how unprecedentedly fast the glacier is melting all down to AGW and the Satanic Gases. “We must do something now!! (so send me lots of ‘research’ money!!)”

    Of course the entire subsea volcano issue will be put far down the memory hole. If it doesn’t support the rent seeking then it has to be suppressed. And that there is the story of AGW in a nutshell.

  7. 4TimesAYear says:

    Reblogged this on 4TimesAYear's Blog.

  8. 4TimesAYear says:

    100 scientists? How many holes are they going to drill? What kind of impact will they have on their own tests and observations? Why not set up remote monitoring? Did they ever stop to think of the environmental impact 100 people and their supplies will have on the environment?

  9. oldbrew says:

    Report: Scientists find what they think is largest volcanic region on Earth hidden in Antarctica after student’s idea

    Remote survey discovers 91 volcanoes in study suggested by third-year university student
    Paul Ward Sunday 13 August 2017

    The results do not indicate whether the volcanoes are active, but should inform ongoing research into seismic monitoring in the area.

    Previous studies have suggested that volcanic activity may have occurred in the region during warmer periods and could increase if Antarctica’s ice thins in a warming climate.
    – – –
    So it seems the greatest threat from Antarctica’s many volcanoes will be if several erupt within a few decades of each other. If those volcanoes have already grown above the ice and their gases were rich in halogens then enhanced warming and rapid deglaciation may result. But eruptions probably need to take place repeatedly over many tens to hundreds of years to have a climatic impact. [bold added]

    John Smellie is Professor of Volcanology at the University of Leicester, U.K.

  10. A C Osborn says:

    I have noticed no one else has mentioned how lucrative this little exercise is going to be.
    £20M, not bad work if you can get it.

  11. tom0mason says:

    So where is this glacier that’s causing such a problem?
    Found it over here, with a rather large toe in the water….

  12. oldbrew says:

    Heat flux and volcanoes (some dormant) all around West Antarctica…