Project Overview

Title: Outlet glacier and ice shelf dynamics in East Antarctica, a number of associated individual projects have been ongoing since 2015, most of which have been supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.

 The world’s ice sheet margins are highly dynamic and rapid changes on seasonal or annual time scales are common, although little is currently known about the dynamics of outlet glaciers in East Antarctica, which holds far more sea level potential than West Antarctica and Greenland combined. In collaboration with our Australian and North American colleagues we have initially been elucidating the ice dynamics of the Sørsdal Glacier, a marine-terminating outlet glacier in East Antarctica, and are currently expanding this research to other, much larger, glaciers such as the Denman, Totten and Vanderford Glaciers as well as large ice shelves such as the Amery, West and Shackleton ice shelves.

Our in-situ geophysical investigations have so far been focusing on the role of hydrology in forcing the glacier’s flow and meltwater runoff into the Southern Ocean, by delineating the subsurface pathways of water discharge from draining surface lakes, and by identifying whether drainage affects basal lubrication of ice flow. Our current in-situ surveys combine helicopter-borne ground-penetrating radar surveys with passive seismic and electrical geophysical observations. We are now seeking to expand on our work by combining it with satellite observations and numerical modelling to identify the future sensitivity of East Antarctic outlet glaciers to future change.

helicopter flying over horseshoe lake tower
GPS site