Earth Institute Research Projects

Collaborative Research: IPY: GAMBIT: Gamburtsev Aerogeophysical Mapping

Lead PI: Dr. Robin E. Bell Michael Studinger

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

October 2006 - September 2014
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This award supports an aerogeophysical study of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains (GSM), a Texas-sized mountain range buried beneath the ice sheets of East Antarctica. The project would perform a combined gravity, magnetics, and radar study to achieve a range of goals including: advancing our understanding of the origin and evolution of the polar ice sheets and subglacial lakes; defining the crustal architecture of East Antarctica, a key question in the earth's history; and locating the oldest ice in East Antarctica, which may ultimately help find ancient climate records. Virtually unexplored, the GSM represents the largest unstudied area of crustal uplift on earth. As well, the region is the starting point for growth of the Antarctic ice sheets.

OUTCOMES: The team found that there is widespread persistent thickening of the east Antarctic ice sheet from freezing at the base; east Antarctic rifting triggers the uplift of the Gamburtsev Mountains; the ice sheet thermal structure preserves subglacial mountain topography; that subglacial water underneath Dome A is largely controlled by the valley network of the Gamburtsev Mountains; and new insights into the ice surface processes such as wind erosion. Six journal publications, three one time publications, a website, and numerous outreach activities.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Nick Frearson


British Antarctic Survey, Bundesanstalt fuer Geowissenschaften BGR, Australian Antarctic Division, Polar Research Institute of China



gambit ice sheets ice cores antarctica international polar year drilling seismology marine geology and geophysics gamburtsev subglacial mountains expedition


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate