Investigating Antarctic Ice Sheet-Ocean-Carbon Cycle Interactions During the Last Deglaciation



This project investigates Antarctic ice-ocean interactions of the last 20,000 years. The Antarctic ice sheet is an important component of Earth’s climate system, as it interacts with the atmosphere, the surrounding Southern Ocean, and the underlaying solid Earth. The ice sheet is also the largest potential contributor to future sea level rise and a major uncertainty in climate projections. Climate change may trigger instabilities, which may lead to fast and irreversible collapse of parts of the ice sheet. However, very little is known about how interactions between the Antarctic ice sheet and the rest of the climate system affect its behavior, climate, and sea level, partly because most climate models currently do not have fully-interactive ice sheet components. The project team will construct a numerical climate model that includes an interactive Antarctic ice sheet, improving computational infrastructure for research. The model code will be made freely available to the public on a code-sharing site. Paleoclimate data will be synthesized and compared with simulations of the model. The model-data comparison will address three scientific hypotheses regarding past changes in deep ocean circulation, ice sheet, carbon, and sea level. The project will contribute to a better understanding of ice-ocean interactions and past climate variability.

The project will test ideas that ice-ocean interactions have been important for setting deep ocean circulation and carbon storage during the Last Glacial Maximum and subsequent deglaciation. The new model will consist of three existing and well-tested components: (1) an isotope-enabled climate-carbon cycle model of intermediate complexity, (2) a model of the combined Antarctic ice sheet, solid Earth and sea level, and (3) an iceberg model. The coupling will build on Fyke et al. (2011) and include ocean temperature effects on basal melting of ice shelves, freshwater fluxes from the ice sheet to the ocean, and calving, transport and melting of icebergs. Once constructed and optimized, the model will be applied to simulate the Last Glacial Maximum and subsequent deglaciation. Differences between model versions with full, partial or no coupling will be used to investigate the effects of ice-ocean interactions on the Meridional Overturning Circulation, deep ocean carbon storage and ice sheet fluctuations. Paleoclimate data synthesis will include temperature, carbon and nitrogen isotopes, radiocarbon ages, protactinium-thorium ratios, neodymium isotopes, carbonate ion, dissolved oxygen, relative sea level and terrestrial cosmogenic ages into one multi-proxy database with a consistent updated chronology. The project will support an early-career scientist, one graduate student, undergraduate students, and new and ongoing national and international collaborations. Outreach activities in collaboration with a local science museum will benefit rural communities in Oregon by improving their climate literacy. Abstract at NSF.

More details: Project Description


Funded by

the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs through Paleo Perspectives on Climate Change.