ICE Ice rises

ICE Ice rises is a climate project studying the Ice rise on the surface of the Antarctic ice shelves and along the edge of the ice. The goal is to determine if, and in that case how, these ”islands” affect how fast the ice is moving toward the ocean, which in turn may influence the melting process and a potential rise in sea level.

Photo of an ice rise

Ice rises on the Fimbul Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Photo: Elisabeth Isaksson / Norwegian Polar Institute

Through ICE Ice rises, we want to talk about our research in Antarctica and focus on the climatic changes occuring there, changes which may affect people around the world.

Scientist from the Norwegian Polar Institute and several other national and international institutions are collaborating in this project.

We leave Norway in December 2012, heading for Antarctica where we will spend several weeks on the ice doing scientific research. We will return to Antarctica for additional fieldwork in the winter of 2013–2014 (during the Antarctic summer).

Follow our research in Antarctica

During the course of the project we will keep in touch with students, teachers and others through the web and by school visits. We are bringing our computers to Antarctica, and you can follow us on the ice online. We'll answer your questions and post daily updates. Here you'll be able to read about the weather conditions on the ice, watch images and videos and read about exciting new discoveries!

Find us here:

The ICE Ice rises project is led by the Norwegian Polar Institute with cooperation from the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) in the outreach effort toward shools.

The research

ICE Ice rises is dedicated to studying the ice rises on the ice shelves along the coast of Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica. One goal is to find out how the ice rises are influencing the ice. We'll look at the coastal area and the development of the ice rises over the last millennia to find out if they have increased or decreased in size.

We also want to improve our understanding of how the ice moves in the complex system of glaciers, ice rises and ice shelves. Our results will be used to predict the melting of the ice and whether or not it will cause a rise in sea level.

Studying the ice rises in Antarctica up close and making measurements are key to acheiving these goals. The fieldwork will be conducted over the course of three Antarctic summers, starting December 2011.

The fieldwork

Photo of research assistant Anne Tårånd Aasen doing field work

Anne Tårånd Aasen at work. Photo: Ulli Neumann

When we arrive, the first thing we'll do is map the topography. This is done using altitude measurements from precision GPS units, which we'll mount on snowmobiles and drive around on the ice rise. The measurements should give us an indication of where the steepest descent from the top is. This is the flow direction of the ice, since the ice flows down at the steepest, like a river.

Along this steepest line we aim to make radar measurements. On top of the ice the snow sets in layers, year after year. Using the radar we're able to see these layers unfold downward in the ice, and we'll get an idea of how the ice looks deep down under the surface. We can use this to examine the historic development of the ice rise and the ice shelf, and determine if the have grown or shrunk in the past.

We'll also be drilling ice cores, about 20 metres down into the ice. The cores will be shipped to Norway for further examination. They will be able to tell us the number of layers and the age of the ice – almost like counting year rings of a tree. When we have determined the depth, age and density of the ice, we can calculate the average snowfall over the last years.

We will also be measuring how fast the ice flows down the ice rise. This is done by planting stakes in the snow, and then measuring the position of the stakes with a GPS unit placed on top of the stakes. When the same measurements are repeated one year later, we can determine how far the stakes have moved, and calculate their average speed.