Aims, hypotheses and outcomes

BRITICE-CHRONO is a five-year NERC-funded consortium of more than 40 researchers comprising glaciologists, marine and terrestrial Quaternary scientists and ice-sheet modellers.

Given concerns about retreat/stability of the marine-influenced West Antarctic and Greenland ice Sheets, and consequent sea-level rise, it is imperative that we can predict the future rates of change of these large ice masses.

Our current ability to do so is limited and a weakness in climate science. Numerical ice sheet models – capable of making predictions – exist and are being refined, but they have yet to be adequately tested against data on the pattern and timing of a shrinking ice sheet. We are conducting a systematic and directed campaign to collect and date material to constrain the timing and rates of change of the collapsing British Irish Ice Sheet ice sheet.

By the end of BRITICE-CHRONO the British Irish Ice Sheet will become the best constrained anywhere and a benchmark against which predictive ice sheet models can be improved and tested

Scientific Aims

We propose a systematic and directed campaign to collect and date material to constrain the timing and rates of change of the marine-influenced sectors of the collapsing British Irish Ice Sheet.

Hypothesis 1: that the marine-influenced sectors collapsed rapidly (<1000 years) and that once onshore the ice sheet stabilised and retreated more slowly.
Hypothesis 2: that the main ice catchments draining the BIIS retreated synchronously in response to external climatic and sea-level controls.
Hypothesis 3: that the ice-rafted debris (IRD) fluxes derived from the BIIS on the adjacent continental margin is a function of changes in ice sheet mass balance.

 Outcomes

  1. An empirically-based reconstruction of ice retreat taking the form of maps and timeslices during deglaciation, and ice sheet modelling experiments fitted to these timeslices will yield ice sheet thickness from which volume estimates of mass loss can be computed and converted into sea-level equivalent.
  2. BRITICE-CHRONO data compilation: all geo-chronometric data made available for future multidisciplinary research as a quality-controlled database (all existing and new dates, ≈1600) with metadata and GIS layers. Reconstructed ice margins will be made freely available specifically to encourage future ice sheet modelling.
  3. Engagement of the modelling and evidence-based communities. Through our involvement with leading ice sheet modellers on our Advisory Panel, and integration of our data in model simulations we anticipate a much stronger engagement between the modelling and palaeodata communities.
Such increased engagement is vital for model developments and for reducing uncertainty in predictions of sea-level rise.
For further information, please email britice-chrono@sheffield.ac.uk