Understanding when and how the Antarctic Peninsula topography developed

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Main Supervisor:

Andrew Carter

Earth & Planetary Sciences, BBK

Second Supervisor:

Teal Riley

British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge

Project Description:

The mountainous topography along the spine of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) has a major influence on Antarctic climate. It acts as a barrier to troposphere circulation, which funnels low-pressure centres northward through the Drake Passage and drives a pronounced atmospheric thermal gradient across the AP. Establishment of the topography is seen as a precondition for Cenozoic ice expansion. Despite its importance there is poor understanding about when the AP topography first developed and the mechanism(s) that created it.

This project will map the timing and pattern of topographic growth by using apatite thermochronometry data obtained from strategic sample transects along the Antarctic Peninsula. The project will use existing samples from the BAS collection, supplemented, where necessary, by fieldwork to plug any data gaps. Results will be used to test the various tectonic models that have been put forward to explain the timing and origin of the AP topography.

Policy Impact of Research:

Antarctica influences earth’s climate and biogeochemical cycles hence we need to understand past changes in Antarctic glaciation, ocean structure and climate. Results from this study will provide climate modellers with more realistic topographic boundary conditions and so improve understanding of ice sheet initiation, expansion and stability.

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