In February 2024, SAEF Partner Investigator Dr Mardi McNeil will join the EASI-3 voyage on board the Alfred Wegner Institute’s RV Polarstern. Led by Professor Sebastian Krastel from the Institute of Geosciences at Kiel University, the expedition will depart Hobart on 6 February following its first-ever visit to an Australian harbour.
The voyage will focus on better understanding how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) has responded to past climate change to better predict how it is likely to respond in the future.
The EAIS is up to several kilometres thick and holds enough freshwater to raise sea levels by over 50 metres. However, the feedbacks between ice, ocean and atmosphere in this huge and globally significant region are still poorly understood. This lack of knowledge means there is great uncertainty about the rate at which sea level could rise as a result of global warming and how the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb heat and carbon dioxide will change.
Taking a multidisciplinary approach, scientists will conduct both marine and land-based fieldwork focused on recording interactions between the EAIS and the adjacent ocean. They will aim to build a window into the past 50,000 years of the region’s history to understand what happened as the climate conditions fluctuated. The team will collect data and samples on the coast and continental shelf between Wilhelm II Land to Wilkes Land (85°E and 115°E), which is known to have had ice-free areas in the last glacial period.
Dr McNeil’s work will involve collecting sediment cores from the continental shelf as well as collecting and interpreting bathymetry (seafloor topography) and seismic data (the structure of sediment under the seafloor) to understand how the EAIS has expanded and shrunk in the past and what it might mean for past and future climate.
The international collaborators include: