New York Universitys Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences is part of a $10 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant to study the impact of global warming on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, an undertaking that will provide a method for measuring effects of oceanic and atmospheric warming in other regions. The award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The project, Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD), is assessing the role of water beneath a west Antarctic ice stream in interlinked glaciological, geological, microbiological, geochemical, and oceanographic systems. Northern Illinois University and the University of California, Santa Cruz are NYUs research partners under the NSF award.
David Holland, director of the Center for Atmosphere Ocean Science, part of the Courant Institute, is the principal investigator on the NYU team. Its role in the project is two-fold. First, NYU researchers will contribute to the establishment of sub-ice shelf mooring that will send back ocean temperature data via satellite over the next few years. Second, Courant will lead the effort to develop a numerical model that describes the ocean and ice physical environment and its evolution in time and space.
The development of the computer model, and its validation through comparison and assimilation with the field observations, will be an important step in building climate models that will be able to reliably predict the future of global sea level, said Holland, a professor of mathematics and atmosphere-ocean science.
Last year, Holland and his colleagues reported that the sudden thinning of Jakobshavn Isbræ, one of Greenlands largest outlet glaciers, was caused by subsurface ocean warming. The research team, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience, traced these oceanic shifts back to changes in the atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic region, suggesting that ocean temperatures may be more important for glacier flow than previously thought.