Dr. Joerg Schaefer
Earth Institute Contact: Dr. Joerg Schaefer
This project will determine the age, origin, and climatic significance of buried ice found in the western Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Previous studies indicate that this ice may be over a million years in age, making it by far the oldest ice yet discovered on Earth. An alternative view is that this ice is represents recently frozen groundwater. To distinguish between these hypotheses and characterize the ice, we are undertaking an interdisciplinary research program focused on: 1) understanding the surface processes that permit ice preservation; and 2) testing the efficacy of cosmogenic nuclides and 40Ar/39Ar analyses in dating both tills and volcanic ash associated with the ice. Our plan calls for the analysis of a minimum of six cosmogenic depth profiles to determine if and how cryoturbation reworks sublimation tills and assess the average rate of ice sublimation for three debris-covered glaciers. We will model through finite- element analyses at least three buried glaciers and compare flow rates with those based on radiometric dating of surface deposits. Ten ice cores will also be collected for measurement of d18O, dD, ice fabric, ice texture, total gas content/composition. Better understanding of surface processes above buried ice will permit researchers to gain access to a record of atmospheric and climate change that could well cover intervals that predate Quaternary time. The work may also add valuable insight into Martian history. In terms of broader impacts, we have recruited three female PhD students and developed interdisciplinary collaborations among geochemists at Columbia University, planetary geologists at Brown University, geomorphologists at Boston University, and numerical modelers at the University of Maine.
Cross Cutting Themes:
Climate and Society
Boston University, Brown University, University of Maine
National Science Foundation