We are investigating Antarctic ice shelves to understand their future stability

Aerial image of ice-berg rift being overlapped by another image of a temperature map.

The Challenge

The response to climate change of the great ice sheets will impact millions of people in coastal communities through sea level rise. In this research we investigate the role of ice shelves – the floating extensions of glaciers which surround Antarctica – in holding back the ice on land, and seek to understand how this will change with ocean and atmospheric warming.

The Method

Using satellite imaging, field geophysics and computer modelling, members of the glaciology group at Swansea University including Professors Adrian Luckman and Bernd Kulessa, and Dr Steph Cornford have for over a decade been investigating Antarctic Ice Shelves and their future stability. Focussing on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, they have improved our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the ice shelf and have been monitoring rifts and fractures which may lead to ice losses. Using social media and bespoke websites, they have engaged with the media and public to highlight processes and changes in these ice shelf systems.

Larsen C Ice shelf

Iceberg acceleration June 2017

Iceberg acceleration June 2017

Iceberg acceleration June 2017

Iceberg acceleration June 2017

The Impact

The Swansea group were the first to predict the calving of iceberg A-68 from the Larsen C ice-sheet, and in July 2017 the first to announce its calving.  Through their media engagement and website posts, there was sustained interest from the general public during the rifting process and an online survey of over 1500 people showed that awareness of polar science improved. 

The text reads United Nations Sustainable Development Themes
UN Sustainable goal - climate action
Text reads Swansea University Research Themes