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Ice Flows

The ice held in the Antarctic Ice Sheet has the potential to cause significant changes in sea level in the future, which will affect many people around the world.

Researchers including Dr Anne Le Brocq have been investigating how climate change may impact on the Antarctic Ice Sheet through research looking at the Filchner Ice Shelf. This research combined field measurements with numerical modelling of ice flow, ocean currents and the atmosphere. This region is potentially highly vulnerable to changes in ocean currents driven by a changing climate.

The research has now been used to build the Ice Flows Game which represents how ice flows in Antarctica and how it responds to changes in the environment – such as changes in snowfall and ocean temperature. Players can to impose different climatic changes to control the extent of the ice sheet to guide penguins to fish; if they get it wrong, the penguin may meet its doom in the jaws of a Leopard Seal.

The game has a number of levels relating to unique ways different parts of the Antarctic will respond to climate change and you can carry out your own ice sheet model experiments, much like the scientists working on the research.

ice flows animated gif

The game was funded as part of a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) research project, led by the British Antarctic Survey, and was created with the developers, Inhouse Visuals and Questionable Quality. It is free to download at: http://www.iceflowsgame.com, in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Dr Anne Le Brocq is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Exeter.

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The enduring legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton

100 years ago in November 1915 the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Endurance was crushed and sunk in the sea ice of the Weddell Sea.

Shackleton had the aim of completing the first trans-Antarctic crossing of the Antarctic continent. Now his crew, who had no contact with the outside world, were now stranded on the ice with no prospect of rescue. What followed is one of the most enduring stories of human endurance and fortitude. Using three small boats the crew reached the relative safety of Elephant Island, an inhospitable rocky outcrop.

Then Shackleton sailed in the James Caird 800 miles through the treacherous Southern Ocean and crossed South Georgia’s uncharted glaciers before help could be provided and his crew safely rescued.

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Blissett and Plumley with bags of penguin eggs 1901, National Antarctic Expedition 1901 – 1904, C. Royds

The scientific work now undertaken in Antarctica owes much to the expeditions undertaken by explorers such as Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen in the early 20th Century who opened up this frozen continent to exploration, scientific enquiry and to the public.

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