About the expedition


Colored lines mark the Larsen B Ice Shelf edge in 1947, 1961, 1993, and 2002.

Colored lines mark the Larsen B Ice Shelf edge in 1947, 1961, 1993, and 2002. Image courtesy Ted Scambos, NSIDC

Overview and History
In March 2002, a huge portion of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica disintegrated in just a few days. Immediately afterward, glaciers in the affected area began to accelerate. Within a few years, they were moving six to ten times faster, and thinning at an astounding rate (up to 500 feet in 6 years). A small portion of the Larsen Ice Shelf remains, but in recent years it, too, has started to melt, thin, and crack apart. What will happen if the last of the ice shelf breaks up?

To answer that question, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a large interdisciplinary, multi-institute study to explore every aspect of the Larsen Ice Shelf region: the LARISSA Project.

From December 2009 to March 2010, researchers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) traveled to the Larsen Ice Shelf region as part of LARISSA. During that expedition they set up instruments on the glaciers that feed into the remaining portion of the Larsen ice shelf. These Automated Meteorology, Ice, Geophysics Observation Systems (AMIGOS) record weather conditions, GPS location, photographs, and other data, and send it back to the researchers via satellite. As changes occur on the ice, the stations will record it in data and pictures.

In November 2010, Ted Scambos, Jenn Bohlander, and Martin Truffer refurbished the AMIGOS-3 unit on Flask Glacier. Then in November 2011, Ted returned returned to Scar Inlet ice shelf to replace the AMIGOS-2 unit there with a better-functioning AMIGOS-4 unit. He also installed a new AMIGOS-6 unit at Cape Disappointment on a cliff overlooking the remnant Scar Inlet Shelf. The two cameras in AMIGOS-6 have an excellent vantage point to see how the shelf evolves from winter to spring to summer.

The Scar Inlet AMIGOS-4 unit ceased communication on January 10, 2012 after a warm period of intense melting around the station. Likewise the Cape Disappointment AMIGOS-6 unit stopped communicating during a 60 knot wind event on June 6, 2012. In November and December 2012, Terry Haran, with the aid of several British Antarctic Survey (BAS) personnel from Rothera Station, managed to repair both units.

This year’s 2013 field season has been extended from April into May: Ted Scambos, Jenn Bohlander, Rob Bauer, Erin Pettit, and Ronald Ross will accompany a group of scientists from the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) aboard the KOPRI research icebreaker Araon. The plan is to replace the AMIGOS-3 unit on Flask Glacier with a better-functioning AMIGOS-1 unit. A new tower for AMIGOS-1 will raise its solar panels about 3 to 4 feet higher above the snow surface which should allow the instrument to continue sending data for an additional 3 years. The NSIDC crew will also assist their Korean colleagues in placing additional instruments and cameras to facilitate continued measurements of changing glacier flow during the next few years.

Who are we?

Where are we going?

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