Project Set to Take Team to Antarctic; Scientist's Study Focuses on Ice Sheet

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

AFIFTH return to Antarctica is on the agenda for a North East academic who is probing climate change.

Northumbria University's Dr John Woodward is hoping that ancient rocks embedded in the West Antarctic ice sheet will help improve predictions of future rising sea levels.

The project, involving Northumbria University and the University of Edinburgh, will see researchers use sensor technology and chemical analysis to investigate the 500,000-year-old rocks. Their findings will indicate whether the ice sheet melted at the warmest point between the two most recent global ice ages, around 120,000 years ago, when sea levels rose by up to six metres.

Melting ice would have exposed the rocks to more cosmic radiation than if they had remained embedded in the ice sheet, where they are now.

The research will shed light on whether the ice sheet played a role in rising sea levels between the ice ages.

Understanding how the West Antarctic ice sheet behaved between ice ages will enable scientists to improve their understanding of past climates.

This in turn enables more accurate predictions of how sea levels will change as the climate continues to warm.

Dr Woodward, from Northumbria's School of the Built and Natural Environment, will use a radar system to image the inside and bed of the ice sheet to trace the flow patterns of the rocks as they move towards the ice sheet surface, before their exposure to the cosmic radiation.

His Northumbria colleague, Dr Stuart Dunning, will use remote controlled drone aircraft to photograph the mountain ranges where the rocks emerge. …