So what is ROSETTA-Ice?

You are probably wondering what ROSETTA-Ice is really all about.

ROSETTA-Ice is a current project that is acquiring geophysical data over the Ross Ice Shelf, using an LC-130 aircraft. The Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) is a floating extension of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that occupies the southern Ross Embayment in West Antarctica. It buttresses ice that flows from West Antarctic ice sheets.

The map on the left comes from the Polar Geospatial Center; on the right, from MODIS imagery. Inset shows this region with respect to the continent.

The aim of ROSETTA-Ice is to learn more about the interactions between ice, ocean, and underlying rock. The acronym ROSETTA broken down (get ready): A systems approach to understanding the Ross Ocean and ice Shelf Environment and Tectonic setting Through Aerogeophysical surveys and modeling.

We care about the bathymetry beneath the RIS because it controls the circulation of sub-Shelf ocean water that may warm the ice shelf from below. Obviously, this is bad for the stability of the RIS. Obscured by thick ice and water, the bathymetry beneath the RIS cannot be measured directly, and therefore is very poorly known. Depth-sounding data from the 1970’s Ross Ice Shelf Geophysical Glaciological Survey (RIGGS) produced a map at 55 km resolution. 55 kms! ROSETTA-Ice is working towards 10 km resolution. The bathymetry and geology may be constrained by gravity and magnetic data. ROSETTA uses IcePod, a suite of instruments contained in, well, a metal pod, that is attached to the lever arm of the aircraft, to primarily study the ice. ALAMOs (air-launched autonomous micro observers) help us learn more about the ocean, measuring profiles of temperature and salinity.

Most members of the team are from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute at Columbia University. Others represent institutions such as Colorado College, Earth and Space Research in Seattle, GNS in New Zealand, Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and the USGS in Denver. So it is very much a collaborative effort; engineers, geologists, geophysicists, glaciologists, oceanographers and modelers, working together.



Author: Alec Lockett

Alec grew up in Belmont, MA and graduated with a degree in Geology in May 2017 from Colorado College. His senior thesis used gravity and magnetic data from the ROSETTA-Ice 2015-2016 field season to interpret and characterize the bedrock beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, West Antarctica. The project is an interdisciplinary effort with the aim of understanding the systems interaction between the Ross Ice Shelf, underlying water and bedrock through an airborne geophysical survey. Geophysics, along with remote sensing (of the cryosphere) and structural geology, are some of Alec’s overarching interests, which grew while working in Antarctica with members of the ROSETTA-Ice group during the 2016-2017 season. Alec is participating in field data collection once more this fall/winter (Antarctic summer). Interests outside of geology include reading, hiking, skiing and biking.

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