State of the Planet

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Melting Glaciers–Tracking Their Path

franknitscheI am a geophysicist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and I study how different processes shape the bottom of oceans and rivers. One focus of my research is the continental shelves off Antarctica, especially in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Sea, and the role of ice sheets in their formation. I made my first trip to Antarctica as a student, in 1994, and have been fascinated by the continent and its traces of past glaciations since. This will be my sixth expedition to the Southern Ocean.

I will be traveling with an international team of scientists aboard the Swedish ice-breaking ship, the Oden. Our main goal will be to better understand how the West Antarctic ice sheet has changed since the last ice age hit its peak, about 20,000 years ago. Scientists aboard the Oden will map glacial features on the seafloor, take sediment samples, and measure water properties. In addition, some scientists will carry out biological and astrophysical experiments.

From Christchurch, New Zealand, we will fly to the American base on Antarctica, McMurdo Station, and board the Oden, bound for the eastern Ross Sea to deploy oceanographic instruments. From there we will head to the Amundsen Sea, our main study area, and then steam east along the continental shelf and the Antarctic Peninsula. The expedition will end in Punta Arenas, Chile, in mid-March.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

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