Swedish Research Expedition Investigates Antarctica’s Future In A Warmer Climate


A research group led by Stockholm University is travelling to Antarctica. The goal is to investigate how the continent’s ice sheets have changed historically. By taking samples of bedrock and erratics (boulders deposited by the ice sheet), the researchers ultimately seek to answer how Antarctica will change in the future and how much melting ice sheets contribute to rising sea levels.

“The most significant uncertainty in the IPCC’s forecast of sea level changes is to what extent melting ice caps contribute to the sea levels. The Antarctic ice sheets are the largest on Earth, and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is one of the least explored areas on the planet. By determining the age of samples of bedrock and erratics, we can get answers to when and how quickly the ice sheet’s surface has changed historically. It helps us to provide better forecasts. It is important for society, especially for coastal communities,” says Arjen Stroeven, professor of Physical Geography at Stockholm University, who is the research leader for the MAGIC-DML project.

MAGIC-DML stands for Mapping, Measuring and Modeling Antarctic Geomorphology and Ice Change in Dronning Maud Land. It is an international collaboration with researchers from Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, Germany and the USA, among others. The common interest is to study variations in the thickness and dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheets.

Fieldwork with mobile living modules

The measurements will be conducted in nunatak areas near the Swedish research stations Wasa and Svea. The researchers will be on the ice for a total of six weeks, at most about three weeks in a go and 300 kilometres from Wasa. Transport is by snowmobiles and overnight stays will occur both at the research stations and in arks, that is, mobile living modules towed by snowmobiles. The researchers have been prepared for the expedition during field courses through the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.

“As a group, we must be highly focused. Everyone has their role. It is a demanding environment with freezing temperatures even though it is at the height of summer in Antarctica. Crevasses can form when the ice flows and rocks can suddenly tumble-down mountain slopes. Group dynamics and mutual trust become critical components for a safe implementation,” concludes Arjen Stroeven.

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