The ambitious iSTAR science programme, which is studying the retreat of Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, has successfully completed the field work component of its six year, £7.4 million, mission.
During the past two field seasons scientists and support teams crossed the glacier on tractors and skidoos, covering more than 2400 kilometres and working at different sites to measure ice sheet accumulation and drainage. Another team worked onboard a research ship to investigate whether warmer ocean currents have been eroding the underside of the ice shelf.
During the last 3 months the over-ice team revisited GPS stations that were placed on the ice sheet in 2013/14 to record data about its movement. Seismic measurements were taken to determine the type of bedrock beneath the ice. And at ten sites, 50m deep ice cores were drilled and extracted for analysis. These will give scientists a record of past climate in the region. The final days of this second season for the iSTAR traverse were marked by severe storms and ferocious winds.
Now the research teams have a new challenge of analysing the large amount of data and writing this up for peer-reviewed publication.
Science programme manager, Dr Andy Smith, of the British Antarctic Survey, said:
“After four years preparation and two years of fieldwork, it’s great to see the iSTAR science traverse successfully completed. It is a fantastic achievement for all involved. In less than ten years, Pine Island Glacier has gone from one of the least studied of the world’s glaciers to one of the most studied. iSTAR has played a very large part in this.”