The Past is the Key to the Future How will West Antarctica Ice sheet respond to the current climatic warming?

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Postgraduate Certificate in Antarctic Studies
University of Canterbury
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McKenzie, Chris

The West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) is warming and is predicted to continue for decades to come (IPCC, 2007). How will WAIS respond to this warming? To answer this question we need to know how it responded to climate changes in the geological past. One of the best places to find this is in the Ross Sea, which is a depositional basin that has a record of all the sediments coming off Antarctica over millions of years (Chapman, et al. 2006). Many coring programs have drilled in the Ross Sea, with the ANDRILL (ANtarctica DRILLing) project being the most recent. It has unveiled much of Antarctica’s climate for the last approximate 40 million years (Naish, 2008). These Ross Sea coring projects have given us an understanding of how much ice was present on Antarctica during a given global CO₂ concentration and global temperature in the past (Foreman et al. 2007). They also show Antartica’s past climate range supported forests through to glaciations (Chapman, et al. 2006). The data retrieved from these drilled sediments can be incorporated into mathematical models which give insight to the extent of the WAIS in the near future.

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