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Public Lecture: The Big Antarctic Freeze

18 September 2019
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Geological Society Events, 2019 Year of Carbon
The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Since 1992, loss of ice from the Antarctic ice sheet has contributed 8 mm to global sea level rise, with 40% of this occurring in the last five years. The future loss of ice from Antarctica represents the largest uncertainty in future global sea level predictions. This is concerning because the Antarctic ice sheet is large enough to raise the global sea level by approximately 65 m were it to melt completely.

As Earth scientists, we know that Earth’s climate has changed naturally in the past. Can we use the past behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet to predict its future behaviour in a warming climate? To do this we would need to reconstruct a record of ice sheet volume through time. However, this is not straightforward because the ice sheet itself has obliterated or covered most of the direct evidence for its past advance and retreat on Antarctica.

This lecture will firstly explain how we use indirect methods to reconstruct changes in the size of the Antarctic ice sheet which happened millions of years in the past. We will then see how the formation of the ice sheet - approximately 34 million years ago - made its mark in marine geochemical proxy records. Caroline will show that these records reveal a surprisingly dynamic history of the Antarctic ice sheet, with worrying implications for future ice sheet stability.


Caroline Lear (Cardiff University)

Caroline Lear received a BA in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, followed by a PhD at the University of Cambridge. She then spent three years in a research position in the US before moving to Cardiff University in 2004. Caroline is currently the head of the Centre for Resilience and Environmental Change at Cardiff University.

She has been awarded the Bigsby Medal and a Philip Leverhulme Prize in recognition of her research. Caroline is a STEM Ambassador, and is involved in efforts to support women in science. 

Follow Caroline on Twitter: @CarolineLear

Videos of past lectures can be found via our Past Meeting Resources page.

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