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APICS: Antarctic Peninsula Ice and Climate System

image"The APICS project is an effort to understand all aspects of the ice and climate system in one of the most rapidly-changing regions on Earth - the Antarctic Peninsula' Larsen B embayment. In 2002, a huge section of this ice shelf collapsed, after decades of record-warm summers. Following this collapse, glaciers in the region accelerated abruptly. Coastal ecology and nearby ocean currents changed drastically due to the loss, and a preliminary survey of the newly-exposed ocean floor showed previously unknown sub-ice life forms still present after the break-up. The APICS project is intended to use the dynamic Larsen B ice shelf region as a natural laboratory for what to expect from climate warming in Antarctica. It is a collaborative effort among 11 major U.S. research institutions, and four other countries (Spain, Belgium, Argentina, and England) to coordinate research across several disciplines, using the US research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer as a platform. The work will include an ice core at the crest of the ice ridge above the Larsen B, remote robotic systems for glacier measurements, extensive flights to visit unique rock outcrops that may reveal the history of the region, and a remotely piloted vehicle for exploring the new life forms and ocean sediment changes. The first field season is currently planned for February/March of 2008."

"In late January of 2008, a group of 44 researchers, students, pilots, and technicians hopes to board the Nathaniel B. Palmer near Punta Arenas, Chile and sail southward to the newly-formed Larsen B embayment. There, a massive, tightly-coordinated research program will begin to evaluate the very significant changes this region has undergone, not just in the past 5 years, but over the past several thousand. First, a team of paleo-climatology experts will fly by helicopter to the crest of the Antarctic Peninsula to install a lightweight, new-technology ice core drill. They plan to gather a ~400m core of ice that contains a record of the past 1000 years of climate change providing insight into the details of the causes of the recent intense warming in the area. Next, a series of robotic weather and sensor towers will be placed on 4 nearby glaciers, which will remain in place through the coming winter, and even into the next few years. These ‘AMIGOS’ units (Automated Met-Ice-Geophysics Observing Stations) will provide daily pictures, ice flow, snowfall, wind, temperature, and ice thickness data right to the researcher’s desktops via satellite phone. In cooperation with Argentina’s Marambio Base, US and Argentine geologists will fly to two dozen selected rock outcrops, to measure uplift due to glacier loss, and to estimate when the rocks were last covered by ice via cosmogenic isotope age dating. Lastly, a major effort to map the seafloor will be undertaken from the ship, using imaging sonar and a new remote robotic vehicle. One objective of this study will be to learn more about colonies of new life forms, first spotted in 2001, that are found near gas seeps on the Larsen B seafloor. These life forms may derive their energy completely from geologic processes, and therefore may represent a type of ecosystem that is compatible with conditions on other planets (e.g. Europa, Jupiter’s moon).

Among the 44 scientist are several world-renoun investigators: Dr. Eugene Domack, Dr. Amy Leventer, Dr. Lonnie Thompson, Dr. Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Dr. Ted Scambos, Dr. Arnold Gordon, Dr. Rudy Del Valle, Dr. Miguel Canals, and Dr. Marc DeBatist.”

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