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Using information gleaned from geologic data from the past 20,000 years, scientists from Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) will apply new methods to provide a better understanding of the past and current behavior of Antarctic ice sheets.

Predicting the future of Antarctic Ice

19 November 2014  domain-b.com

Models of ice sheets are elaborate systems of mathematical equations that can be used to produce computer simulations. Scientists use these simulations to understand the interplay between the major processes that affect the climate and ice sheets and to simulate the behavior of Antarctic ice during selected time frames.

These studies are of great interest in projections of climate change, particularly its effect on sea-level rise. "Our research group has been working on statistical methods for complex computer models and observations in recent years, but ice sheets present an entirely new and exciting challenge because their behavior can be very complex and difficult to capture well with current models," Murali Haran, an associate professor of statistics at Penn State.

Because the impacts of climate change vary from place to place, having improved projections of sea-level rise for specific locations is important not only to scientists, but also to policy makers and citizens.

Haran is the principal investigator on the project. The interdisciplinary research team spans two colleges at Penn State and includes scientists in the Department of Statistics, the Department of Meteorology, and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

A new 3-dimensional ice sheet model that the Penn State scientists will use as part of their research has been developed by Penn State senior research associate David Pollard, a co-principal investigator on this project. "Changes in sea level result not only from the effect of climate change on melting ice, but also from its effect on winds and ocean currents," Pollard says.

Associate professor of meteorology Chris Forest, a co-principal investigator on the project, said "We are excited to investigate the impacts of climate change on the ice sheets and to learn how the interactions between the tropics and high latitudes are affecting circulation patterns in both the oceans and Earth's atmosphere."

Haran explains that observational data on ice sheets do not easily lend themselves to accurate predictions from existing statistical methods, partly because the thickness of the ice varies a lot within the ice sheet and partly because some of the data sets contain complicated errors and uncertainties.

Read the full story here: Predicting the future of Antarctic Ice