Earth Institute Research Projects

Vulnerability of East Antarctic ice streams to warm ocean water incursions

Lead PI: Dr. Frank O Nitsche

Unit Affiliation: Marine Geology & Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

July 2013 - June 2017
Antarctica ; Southern Ocean ; East Antarctica
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This project will determine the potential vulnerability of key ice streams to incursions of warmer ocean water onto the continental shelf and if this mechanism could already explain any of the observed thinning of the ice sheet. It will provide important constrains on ice dynamic of the investigated section of the EAIS, and thus will be critical for future ice sheet models and provide mechanisms for EAIS contributions to past sea level high-stand. The PI proposes to investigate four key ice stream systems on the continental shelf between ~90°E and 160°E. They will use multibeam bathymetry to identify if and where cross-shelf troughs exist to help determine whether these troughs could provide potential pathways for warmer ocean water. Furthermore, detailed analysis of morphological features of these troughs could provide information on past ice dynamic, maximum extent, and flow direction of related paleo ice streams. The PIs will also conduct water column measurements along these troughs and on the continental slope to determine whether warmer ocean water could enter the shelf in the near future, or if such water has already entered any troughs, and thus might be causing the observed thinning of some ice streams.


National Science Foundation (NSF)


National Science Foundation




University of Tasmania



Nitsche, F.O., Porter, D., Williams, G., Cougnon, E.A., Fraser, A.D., Correia, R., Guerrero, R., 2017. Bathymetric control of warm ocean water access along the East Antarctic Margin. Geophys. Res. Lett. 44, 2017GL074433. doi:10.1002/2017GL074433D.

Nitsche, Frank O., and Ricardo Correia. “East Antarctic Ice Flow Dynamic Based on Subglacial Landforms near Dibble Glacier.” Marine Geology 417 (November 1, 2019): 106007.

Williams, Guy, Alexander Fraser, Arko Lucieer, Darren Turner, Eva Cougnon, Peter Kimball, Takenobu Toyota, et al. “Drones in a Cold Climate.” Eos 97 (January 19, 2016).

DATASETS: NBP1503 expedition data: (doi: 10.7284/901478)


physical oceanography multibeam data paleo ice streams ice sheets glaciers bathymetry marine geology and geophysics


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate