rising global temperatures cause the ice streams
of Western Antarctica (left) to break
up, major cities and agricultural heartlands
the world over would be submerged. Researchers
from the school of geography are set to embark
on a £1m, three-year project to find
out exactly how stable they are.
project, the biggest of its kind to date,
will drill up to 2.2km down into the Rutford
ice stream in Western Antarctica to determine
its stability and see how close it is to breaking
are about a dozen ice streams in Western Antarctica,
moving currents of ice on the ice sheet which
are hundreds of kilometres long and up to
25km wide. It is thought that if they begin
to melt they could break up, leading to even
more rapid melting and a disastrous increase
in sea levels.
researcher, Tavi Murray of geography, will
collaborate with British Antarctic Survey
scientists to drill down into the ice sheet
using hot water drilling equipment.
will take samples from the ice column, collect
sediments to see whether there was sea rather
than ice at any time in the past, carry out
seismic tests and monitor the ways water flows
under the huge pressures of the ice above.
Murray said: “Ice streams are like plugs
in a plughole and we want to find out what
will make the plug bigger or smaller. We hope
to find out whether the ice stream has been
stable in the past so we can determine its
future stability. If it starts to melt it
would begin to float and we could see a catastrophic
is estimated that if the Antarctic ice sheet
melted, sea levels would rise by 75 metres,
submerging most of the world’s major
cities and agricultural areas.