Controls on Lake Formation on Ice Shelves (COOLFISH)

Ice shelves currently border approximately 75% of Antarctica’s perimeter, and moderate inland ice contributions to sea level rise. However, several of the ice shelves that once bordered the Antarctic Peninsula have undergone partial or complete collapse, in line with rising atmospheric temperatures. Furthermore, recent observations have documented an increase in surface meltwater extent over a number of Antarctic ice shelves. This melt can have significant implications for ice shelf (in)stability, as it can reduce the storage capacity of the ice shelf, and drive ice-shelf collapse by hydrofracture.

This Fellowship aims to use an established Random Forest classifier, developed in Google Earth Engine, to detect surface meltwater from the 1980s to present day across all Antarctic ice shelves. It will detect both slush (saturated firn) and ponded water, and will identify key trends in the extent, onset, and duration of surface melting on several spatio-temporal scales. This long-term meltwater record will then be combined with multiple Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) to identify any statistical relationships between local and regional climate factors and ice-shelf surface melt. This will improve our understanding of the past relationships between climate and ice-shelf surface meltwater production, in addition to providing a statistical approach for predictions of future surface melt based on Global Climate Model outputs.

Research Fellow: Rebecca Dell

Host Institution: Scott Polar Research Institute, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge