Larsen Ice Sheets in the Weddell Sea

Over the past years, observations indicate climatic changes in West Antarctica, which inevitably lead to profound environmental changes. A prominent example was the almost complete collapse of the ice shelves Larsen A (in 1995) and Larsen B (in 2002). As a consequence, previously inaccessible sub-ice shelf seabed regions became available for field work to address research issues ranging from the prediction of the development of the West Antarctic Ice Shield under the influence of changes in the bottom water masses to the change of benthic ecosystem functions in the course of the resettlement of formerly ice shelf-covered seabed regions.

To fully exploit the opportunities arising from the collapse of the Larsen ice shelves, the bathymetry working group at the AWI studies seafloor features in order to investigate the development of the late Pleistocene ice sheet and ice shelf dynamics and drainage pattern on the Larsen shelf and the eastern Antarctic Peninsula continental margin, to reconstruct possible pathways of bottom water masses across the shelf, to identify giant slide structure on the west Weddell Sea continental slope and to produce base data sets for habitat studies.

Larsen A, B, and C ice shelves, Weddell Sea (Graphic: Boris Dorschel)