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Evolution of East Antarctic Landscape, Cryosphere and Climate during Quaternary
31 May 2022

Call for Papers - Evolution of East Antarctic Landscape, Cryosphere and Climate during Quaternary

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) is the largest continental ice mass on Earth and is considered to be a “sleeping giant” due to its potential contribution towards future global sea-level rise. However, large uncertainties exist in the estimates of its current and future contribution to sea level changes. Nearly 70% of its coastline is fringed by ice shelves, which regulate the Antarctic mass balance by buttressing grounded ice farther upstream. Recent studies have shown that surface meltwater produced by wind–albedo interaction and subsequent firn air depletion along the grounding lines may lead to the potential disintegration of East Antarctic ice shelves, similar to their counterparts in Antarctic Peninsula. Paleoclimatic records and ice sheet models reveal that the past dynamics of EAIS was tightly coupled to the climate system, with the potential for accelerated and sustained Antarctic ice mass loss in the future. Thus understanding the evolution of its cryosphere and climate during the recent past and the Quaternary, a time of exceptional global environmental changes characterized by alternating glacial-interglacial cycles in tandem with fluctuations in atmospheric CO2, is vital for understanding the ongoing and future behaviour of EAIS.

While the EAIS may appear flat and smooth on the surface, it conceals several mountain ranges, interconnected water channels and lakes. Systematic mapping of its geology, bed topography, bathymetry under ice shelves, and subglacial hydrology are important for accurate estimates of current and future ice discharge.  The range and spatial distribution of geothermal heat flux at the base of the EAIS influences ice dynamics through changes in ice deformation from changing ice temperature, and via the production of subglacial meltwater, both of which affect the ice base, and thus flow of grounded ice. None of these are well-constrained, thus impacting our ability to properly understand the stability of EAIS and its contribution to the sea-level rise. Significant gaps as well as challenges remain in mapping sub-ice geology of East Antarctic shield, despite continued efforts. The East Antarctic landscape constrained through geophysical surveys and drilling will be a key input for this.

Recognising the significance of past, present and future of climate and cryosphere of East Antarctica and its geology, we propose to bring out a special issue of ANTARCTIC SCIENCE on “Evolution of East Antarctic Landscape, Cryosphere and Climate during Quaternary”. This special issue propose to provide a state-of-the-art perspective on the geological-geomorphological-cryosphere-climate variability in East Antarctica, with an objective to summarise and synthesize the current scientific knowledge.