Iceberg Alley

37019298_10155335295920771_5255804750594572288_n (1)
When I returned home from Antarctica last year, I put this promise on my pin-board—that I would go back in the role of science communicator to this place that captured my soul, no matter how long it took. I would dedicate my days to an active role in communicating the vital importance of our polar regions. Well…

 

I’m beyond thrilled to share that I’ve been selected as the Outreach Officer for an IODP Antarctic expedition next year called Iceberg Alley (Iceberg Alley and South Falkland Slope Ice and Ocean Dynamics).Around mid-March next year, I’ll head down to Punta Arenas, near the southern tip of Chile, and board the JOIDES ResolutionThe JR is a research vessel with a drilling derrick. It’s able to drill deep into the seafloor to collect core samples and various measurements, providing data that informs us about our planet’s past.
We’ll sail through the notoriously wild Drake Passage and into the seas east of the northern Antarctic Peninsula, part of “Iceberg Alley” — where most icebergs converge after drifting counter-clockwise around the continent of Antarctica. Here they meet the warmer waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and melt, dropping sediment they picked up when they were glaciers grinding across the continent.
iceberg c

Iceberg in a Gale, Ross Sea, Antarctica                                         Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy

We’ll drill in the Scotia Sea and the South Falkland Slope during two months at sea. Among other things, the sediment we recover will tell us where the iceberg originated and about melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS) in the past. Since Antarctic glaciers are melting now as our planet warms, it’s important to know how the AIS responded in the past, so we can better prepare for a future of sea level rise and other changes.
I’m honored and so grateful to take on this role and be involved in such important work about subjects that fascinate me. And very excited! Wild seas, many icebergs, maybe sea ice, polar birds, and science about the Antarctic Ice Sheet… a dream come true!
I look forward to taking you with me!
(Also published on my Wordy Bird Studio site.)

 

This POLAR WEEK in Ice

pmnmThis is the final day of Polar Week, and what a week it has been! A week ago today, Kevin Pluck and I launched our joint venture, Pixel Movers & Makers.

Kev and I have been secretly toiling on this venture every night for months now, and we were thrilled to present a poster and a short sample animation at the APECS Workshop on Antarctic Hydrology & Ice Shelf Stability at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in February. The response and support we’re received so far from the polar community is very heartening.

We’re currently creating an animation about Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, a melting, accelerating glacier up to 3 km (~1.8 miles) tall and about 400 km (250 miles) long.

We’ve been sharing our process on Twitter and Facebook:

We’re also blogging about our process in more depth.

In personal news, I was pleased to co-present a workshop on effective online science communication at Boston University with Dr. Laura Schifman. We talked about scientists taking control of their science communication by writing effective blog posts for the public and how to harness the power of social media. Thanks to Claudia Mazur for inviting us. We’re now looking for opportunities to take our show on the road!

So, it’s been a rather busy year thus far. There’s still a lot happening in ice news, so I’m providing a list of links below that you may want to check out.

First, the state of our vital sea ice.

Sea Ice

The National Snow & Ice Data Center tells us:

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual maximum extent on March 17. This is the second lowest Arctic maximum in the 39-year satellite record. The four lowest maximum extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past four years.

...in the Southern Hemisphere, sea ice reached its minimum extent for the year on February 20 and 21, at 2.18 million square kilometers (842,000 square miles). This year’s minimum extent was the second lowest in the satellite record, 70,000 square kilometers (27,00 square miles) above the record low set on March 3, 2017. 

global

Let’s zoom in a little…          global2

ARCTIC

N_daily_concentration_hires (1)

NSIDC

N_iqr_timeseries (1)

NSIDC

ANTARCTIC

S_daily_concentration_hires (1)

NSIDC

S_iqr_timeseries (1)

NSIDC

Polar News & Links

And just for fun:

What does it sound like when you drop ice down a 90 m (295 feet) borehole in an Antarctic glacier? Prepare to be surprised!

 

 

 

 

This Week in Ice: Feb 18 – 24, 2018

IMG_8277

This week, I was thrilled to attend an APECS workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, on Antarctic Surface Hydrology & Ice-Shelf Stability at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Thank you to organizers Luke Trusel and Jonathan Kingslake and everyone else who made this possible!

Ice shelves melt from from both below (due to warm ocean water) and from above (due to atmospheric conditions). But Antarctic ice shelves are not all the same, and the processes that affect them are surprisingly complex and not yet fully understood.

meltponds.jpg

Meltponds near Black Island, Antarctica Credit: NASA Operation IceBridge

How do various inputs such as temperature, humidity, snowfall, cloud cover, winds, (creating micro-climates and impacting snow-cover to uncover darker ice with lower albedo), the topography of the land, the presence (or not) of algae (which reduces albedo on Greenland ice shelves), the profile of the calving edge of ice shelves, ocean and atmospheric currents, and more all affect melting? How will future warming affect all of the above?

How does knowledge of processes in Greenland apply to Antarctic ice shelves? How can knowledge of past events inform our theories about what will happen in the future? Which are the most effective models for scientists to use, and how can they best be used in concert? How well do we know the processes that drive surface melt, and can we, therefore, accurately model them? How do we put recent melting into a proper long-term climatological context?

These are some of the topics and questions raised during presentations and discussions. It was very clear an interdisciplinary approach is needed. Indeed, one goal of the workshop was to determine priorities for future research and how scientists from various disciplines might collaborate.

Stef Lhermitte delivered the sobering statement, “We are currently underestimating melt,” and said much melt is happening below the surface. It’s unclear where this water goes or, at this stage, even how to study that. (Check out this excellent site to learn more .)

On a personal note, it was truly wonderful to meet and spend time with people who love our polar ice just as much as I do and have dedicated their lives to studying it. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to present a poster, with my co-author Kevin Pluck, on effective science communication for polar scientists. Among other things, I emphasized how important it is for scientists to take charge of their science communication and leverage the power of social media by following these pointers:

Tweet

This week, Kevin Pluck also illustrated the enormous size of the Pine Island Glacier, which– like the Thwaites Glacier–is an accelerating and weakening glacier of concern to scientists.

exhb4iv6xp9drjdoklwa-1024x560

A rift in the PIG, 2016            Credit: NASA Operation IceBridge/Nathan Kurtz

Sea Ice

Sea Ice has reached record lows in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

ARCTIC

Temperatures in the Arctic are FAR above average.

And the Bering Sea has lost half its ice in just two weeks.

Current conditions:

Arc

Credit: NSIDC

Arci

Credit: NSIDC

ANTARCTIC

Sea ice in the Antarctic is also at a record low.

Ant

Credit: NSIDC

Thank you for reading. It’s good to be back! Now preparation for the APECS workshop is over, I expect to be updating This Week in Ice… well, weekly.

As always, I am not a scientist but a writer/illustrator and science communicator passionately in love with sea ice, ice shelves, and polar ice in general. I welcome input and corrections from and connections with polar scientists as I learn more about this remarkable and vital part of our planet and bring this knowledge to a wider audience. 

Icy Interim

IMG_9114.JPG

Ross Sea ice and iceberg from the RVIB N.B.Palmer                          Copyright © Marlo Garnsworthy

While there was no This Week in Ice post this past week, plenty happened in ice news. Every day, I get up early and pore through headlines about sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves, the Arctic, Antarctica, and icebergs via Google and Twitter. I collect the links and tweets I think are interesting, read them, and eventually construct my blog posts each weekend. And last week was no exception, BUT…

…on Friday, I found out I’ve been accepted to attend a workshop on Antarctic Surface Hydrology and Future Ice Shelf Stability at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, sponsored by the NSF. Since I’m not a scientist, I’m very honored and excited for this wonderful opportunity.

What’s “Antarctic Surface Hydrology and Future Ice Shelf Stability,” you say?

To learn more, check this out.

It’s also my first science conference–so, I’m busy learning how to create a science poster.

The entire ice system and that of the surrounding ocean is fascinating. I want to know how it all works: sea ice, ocean currents, polynyas, ice shelves (and the forces that act on them from above, below, within, and around), plus the ecology—diatoms and other phytoplankton, the marine food chain, benthic (seafloor) communities, the carbon cycle, etc, etc., etc. It’s a complex, fascinating, and intricately woven system, and while we are so far away, our actions and fates are interlinked.

Yet little of this is in most people’s consciousness, or if it is, it may cause a sense of unease that makes them turn away and shut down. My goal is to provide a bridge between scientists and the wider community that’s factual, that isn’t sensationalist, and which shows how worthy these parts of our planet are in and of themselves—not just because the collapse of the system could have drastic consequences for civilization.

So, This Week in Ice will be back, but please expect a fortnightly edition for now. In the meantime, I wrote an article about our SNOWBIRDS Transect research cruise for Envirobites this week. Here’s the link. 

Now, back to my poster…