As part of their research, the team are testing the results of the ice sheet reconstructions against a suite of Earth system models, providing insights into the mechanisms and drivers of ice sheet change. Working with a number of world leading climate modellers based at the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at University of New South Wales (UNSW) the team are addressing the drivers of a number of key events in Earth’s history that provide valuable clues on how Antarctica interacts with the rest of the world.
A key period in this regard is the Eemian, the interglacial period that is estimated to have begun some 130,000 years ago and ended around 114,000 years ago. During this period, global sea level is thought to have been approximately six to nine metres higher than present – yet global temperatures are believed to have been only 2 °C higher than pre-industrial levels. To understand these remarkably high levels, the researchers have developed models and mechanisms that have uncovered significant outcomes. Results from independent model ocean and high resolution ice sheet simulations suggest that parts of the EAIS that have been previously considered ‘stable’ are potentially highly vulnerable to collapse from ocean warming, initiated by a polewards shift in westerly airflow. In recently published work we have proposed that the pervasive regional ocean warming predicted could trigger ice sheet drawdown, thereby making a significant contribution to global sea level during the Last Interglacial period.
Key collaborators: A/Prof Katrin Meissner, Dr Steven Phipps, Prof Matt England and Dr Paul Spence.
If you would like to learn more, check out our recent research paper:
Fogwill, C.J., Turney, C.S.M., Meissner, K.J., Golledge, N.R., Spence, P., Roberts, J.L., England, M.H., Jones, R.T., Carter, L., 2014. Testing the sensitivity of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to Southern Ocean dynamics: past changes and future implications. Journal of Quaternary Science 29, 91-98.
Click here to learn about Ice sheet reconstruction.