India begins to drill into the Antarctic ice

November 21, 2016 12:00 am | Updated December 02, 2016 04:43 pm IST

An Indo-Norwegian project to understand the response of Antarctic ice shelves to the global warming has begun in the less-studied areas of East Antarctica, especially the Dronning Maud Land (DML), which is characterised by loosely-connected ice shelves along the 2000-km-long coast. Ice shelves of East Antarctica are poorly understood when compared to the West Antarctica region.

Climatologists are increasingly worried about the large uncertainties in the future Antarctic contribution to the global sea-level rise since the Antarctic contribution to the climate changes has increased significantly during the past two decades.

“Under the project, mass-balance, dynamics, and climate of the Dronning Maud Land coast, East Antarctica (MADICE), geophysical field measurements, ice core drilling, ice-sheet modelling and satellite remote sensing-based studies will be conducted to understand the future Antarctic contribution to the global sea-level rise,” said Thamban Meloth, a senior researcher of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, and one of the co-leaders of the team for 2016-17 field campaign.

Under the MADICE, research will be conducted during 2016-17 and 2017-18 Antarctic field seasons.

The scientific programme, jointly funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, India and the Research Council, Norway, has NCAOR and the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) as the partnering research institutions. The Indian contingent includes C. M. Laluraj, K. Mahalinganathan, Bhanu Pratap, Prashant Redkar of the NCAOR.

The researchers will try to better understand the current status and dynamics of ice shelves in Dronning Maud Land to decipher its response to the future climate change, said a communication.

Studies on the mass balance and long-term evolution of the Antarctic ice rises (grounded ice mass leading to an elevated part of the ice shelf) and assessment of its impact on the Antarctic ice-shelf stability and ice-sheet loss too will be carried out. Attempts will also be made to reconstruct the recent changes in Antarctic climate using ice cores and its possible teleconnections to global climate.

Each field campaign will include over-snow traverse and camping over ice shelves for nearly two months. Maitri, India’s Antarctic research station, will serve as the logistic support base, explained Mr. Meloth.

According to Dr. Meloth, since the exploration region is highly crevasse-prone and has never been studied before, the team would use crevasse detecting radar system at hazardous spots.

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