A Technical Seminar presented by the Washington/Northern Virginia Chapter
of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society
Understanding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from Space: Beyond dogsleds and frozen toes
Dr. Robert Bindschadler
Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory
Abstract: The West Antarctic ice sheet continues to be a climatic wild card in scientists' attempts to predict the future of the planet. The mystery rests as much on what we do know about ice sheets as what we don't know. The West Antarctic ice sheet rests on a bed below sea level where ice-free periods have layered a bed of thick marine ooze. Ice can, and does, slide rapidly on this slippery material. All other ice sheets of this type have slid back into the ocean, raising sea level over 100 meters. Will the West Antarctic ice sheet be the last to go? If it happens as rapidly as its icy kin disappeared, a potential 5-meter increase in sea level around the globe could occur fast enough to cause widespread economic and ecological damage. Others have argued that the West Antarctic ice sheet is uniquely stable pointing to its persistence in our warm climate.
The study of the peculiar