On January 2, 2010, Dr. Passchier will head south again for another trip to Antarctica. This time she will board a ship in Wellington, New Zealand, which will sail to the Wilkes Land margin of Antarctica (WL on the map). The objective of the cruise is to collect another set of drill cores on the Antarctic continental margin to reconstruct Antarctica's climate and ice-sheet history.
Antarctica is an important component of the Earth system. 1) Its white surface of ice and snow reflects sunlight and keeps the Earth cool. 2) The seasonal formation of sea ice produces cold salty waters that sink and flow northward to cool the lower latitudes of our globe. 3) The Antarctic ice sheets store 70 m in sea level equivalents, meaning that the Statue of Liberty would be in water up to her armpits when all that would melt. Although that is unlikely to happen, keeping an eye on what is going on with all the ice is a good idea!
Credits: map from Barker et al. Leg 178 Scientific Results; image from Ken Miller, Rutgers University