Antarctic Ice Sheets

Climate Science for Australia's Future

Ice Sheet Dynamics


In this project, ACE research focuses on how the Antarctic ice sheets will respond to climate change and what impact these changes will have on climate and sea level.

Ice SheetsThe great ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland hold the largest potential for substantial and prolonged contributions to sea-level rise in a warming climate, but present ability to predict these changes is limited. Recent observations suggest that the contribution to sea-level rise from both ice sheets is increasing. This is in part due to increased discharge of icebergs from large glaciers draining from the ice sheets into the ocean, rather than just by surface melt. The potential for rapid, non-linear change in the rate that ice is discharged from ice sheets to the sea is recognised as the greatest uncertainty in current projections of sea-level rise over century and longer time scales. This is because the current computer models which simulate ice sheet dynamics and their linkages within the climate system are inadequate for quantifying the nature, rapidity and extent of the response of the ice sheets to climate change.

ACE scientists will collect Antarctic field data to define the current ice sheet status and dynamic processes.  They will Unloading aircraftjoin international partners in major aero-geophysical surveys of unexplored sectors of East Antarctica to gather vital knowledge of bedrock topography, basal rock, sediment, and water conditions.  The targets of these surveys are the deep sub-glacial basins and major outlet glaciers which hold the greatest potential for dynamic ice sheet changes. These new measurements will provide real-world boundary data as inputs ice sheet models.

To improve the predictive skill of numerical models of the ice sheet system, ACE scientists will collaborate in international efforts in model development, building on our expertise in ice flow properties and ice-shelf ocean interactions. Our aim is to produce ice sheet models that include factors presently neglected in current models, such as sliding ice and sediments.

View: Dr Tony Press (ACE CEO) discusses the link between Antarctic ice sheets, sea-level rise and potential impacts to coastal infrastructure

Projects and project leaders

  • Dynamic Role of Polar Ice Sheets in Future Sea Level: Dr Tas van Ommen, Dr Roland Warner

Download: Ice Sheet Position Analysis

News Article: Final Icecap is up, up and away

Media Release: New insights into the formation of the East Antarctic ice sheet