UH Professor Researches Ice In Arctic Ocean

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Apr 12, 2001

HONOLULU - Margo Edwards, director of the Hawai'i Mapping Research Group (HMRG) at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa published an article in the March 22, 2000 edition of Nature magazine. The article is co-authored by Leonid Polyak, Bernard Coakley and Martin Jakobsson.

The article, entitled "Ice shelves in the Pleistocene Arctic Ocean inferred from glaciogenic deep-sea bedforms," reports findings from a 1999 science expedition called SCICEX-99.

Edwards was the chief scientist for the trip. She participated in two weeks of the 40 days of exploring and research, which began 150 miles north of Barrow, Alaska and ended on the Fram Strait side of the basin.

Thick sheets of ice off the waters of Antarctica are the extension of glaciers that formed on land and pushed their way out to sea. Previously, no one had found much evidence of large glaciers flowing into the Arctic basin. On this expedition, Edwards and her associates found evidence of Arctic ice shelves in water as deep as 1,000 meters.

Ice shelves modify the shallow seafloor as they shift, revealing information about how and when they moved . This provides a better understanding of the Earth's climatic history, providing undeniable evidence that ice shelves as thick as one kilometer covered large portions or perhaps even the entirety of the Arctic Ocean during some of the ice ages.

This corresponds with the "snowball earth theory," which is the concept that the entire Earth may have once been completely covered with ice.

Today the majority of models describing the Earth's climatic history assume that Arctic ice cover was never thicker than several meters. Thanks to SCICEX-99, those models are about to be substantially revised, improving our ability to describe Earth's climate in the past and present.