Investigation of Climate, Ice Dynamics and Biology Using a Deep Ice Core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Ice Divide

Affiliation(s)PIProject periodFunded by
DHS Taylor, Kendrick C 08/01/2005 - 07/31/2010 National Science Foundation

Project Description


Watch DRI's Kendrick Taylor discuss "Climate Change: How Do We Know?"
Watch DRI's Kendrick Taylor discuss "Climate Change: How Do We Know?"

The U.S. ice core research community is proposing a deep ice coring program in West Antarctica to develop a unique series of interrelated climate, ice dynamics, and biologic records focused on understanding interactions among global earth systems. This program will collect a deep ice core from the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) ice flow divide and integrate approximately 15 separate but synergistic projects to analyze the ice and interpret the records. This proposal requests funds to collect the core and establish a Science Coordination Office to facilitate the program.

Scientific Merit

The most significant characteristic of the WAIS Divide program will be development of climate records with an absolute, annual-layer-counted chronology for the most recent ~40,000 years. Lower temporal resolution records will extend to ~100,000 years before present. These records will enable comparison of environmental conditions between the northern and southern hemispheres and study of greenhouse gas concentrations in the paleo-atmosphere with a greater level of detail than previously possible. The WAIS Divide core will provide the best material that can be recovered from any location-with unprecedented time resolution-to investigate the main science themes of the program:

  1. Climate forcing by greenhouse gases;
  2. Role of Antarctica in abrupt climate change;
  3. Relationship among northern, tropical, and southern climates;
  4. Stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet;
  5. Biological signals in deep ice cores.

Broader Impacts

Broader impacts of this project include the following:

  1. Providing overall scientific direction, support, and integration for approximately 15 of the science projects that are proposed separately.
  2. Addressing major science questions of interest to the climate, ice dynamics, and biology communities.
  3. Explaining climate, glaciology, and biology issues to a broad audience through mass media.
  4. Training the next generation of investigators in ice core research.
  5. Involving a diverse group of students in climate, glaciology, and biology investigations.