British Antarctic Survey
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recent publications
At high‐latitudes, diurnal and semidiurnal variations of temperature and neutral wind velocity can originate both in the lower atmosphere (UV or infrared absorption) and in the thermosphere‐ionosphere (ion convection, EUV absorption). Determining the relative impact of different forcing mechanisms gives insight to the vertical coupling in the ionosphere. We analyze measurements from the incoherent scatter radar (ISR) facility operated by the EISCAT Scientific Association. They are complemented by meteor radar data and compared to global circulation models. The amplitudes and phases of tidal oscillations are determined by an adaptive spectral filter (ASF). Measurements indicate the existence of strong semidiurnal oscillations in a two‐band structure at altitudes ≲110 and ≳130 km, respectively. Analysis of several model runs with different input settings suggest the upper band to be forced in situ while the lower band corresponds to upward‐propagating tides from the lower atmosphere. This indicates the existence of an unexpectedly strong, in situ forcing mechanism for semidiurnal oscillations in the high‐latitude thermosphere. It is shown that the actual transition of tides in the altitude region between 90 and 150 km is more complex than described so far.
Plain Language Summary Increased greenhouse gas concentrations cause global cooling in the middle and upper atmosphere (∼15−500 km altitude), causing this part of the atmosphere to shrink. This reduces the air density in the thermosphere (∼90−500 km altitude) and also affects the ionosphere, consisting of the charged particles in the atmosphere. These changes in the climate of the upper atmosphere affect satellite safety and satellite‐based measurements. Therefore, we need to know what future changes to expect at high altitudes. We simulated this with a global model of the whole atmosphere (∼0−500 km altitude), assuming a moderate scenario of future greenhouse gas and other chemical emissions. Realistic assumptions on main magnetic field changes and variations in solar activity, which also affect the climate of the upper atmosphere, were also included. The predicted global mean cooling in the thermosphere and associated decline in thermosphere density for 2015–2070 are clearly stronger than for the past, which is ascribed to the more rapid increase in CO2 concentration. Climate change in the ionosphere is also stronger for 2015–2070 than for the past, but varies strongly with location, with the largest changes expected in the region of ∼50°S–20°N and ∼90°–0°W. These are due to changes in the Earth's magnetic field.
The banded structure of electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) wave spectra and their resonant interactions with radiation belt electrons depend on the cold ion composition. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the composition in the inner magnetosphere due to difficulties in direct flux measurements. Here, we show that the hydrogen and helium band wave spectra are most consistent with a helium and oxygen composition of a few percent. Less than 10% of hydrogen band wave intensity is consistent with a high helium fraction of ∼20%. Similarly, only ∼20% helium band wave intensity is consistent with an oxygen torus ion composition. Furthermore, we find that the decay of the ultra‐relativistic electrons in the radiation belts by EMIC waves depends on the ion composition. The decay is most sensitive to the helium fraction, and the strongest agreement with Van Allen Probes data is found when the helium fraction is a few percent. We suggest that more observations of the cold ion composition would significantly help understand and set constraints on the decay of ultrarelativistic electrons in the radiation belts.
Regional climate models (RCMs) and reanalysis datasets provide valuable information for assessing the vulnerability of ice shelves to collapse over Antarctica, which is important for future global sea level rise estimates. Within this context, this paper examines variability in snowfall, near-surface air temperature and melt across products from the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM), Regional Atmospheric Climate Model (RACMO) and Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR) RCMs, as well as the ERA-Interim and ERA5 reanalysis datasets. Seasonal and trend decomposition using LOESS (STL) is applied to split the monthly time series at each model grid cell into trend, seasonal and residual components. Significant systematic differences between outputs are shown for all variables in the mean and in the seasonal and residual standard deviations, occurring at both large and fine spatial scales across Antarctica. Results imply that differences in the atmospheric dynamics, parametrisation, tuning and surface schemes between models together contribute more significantly to large-scale variability than differences in the driving data, resolution, domain specification, ice sheet mask, digital elevation model and boundary conditions. Despite significant systematic differences, high temporal correlations are found for snowfall and near-surface air temperature across all products at fine spatial scales. For melt, only moderate correlation exists at fine spatial scales between different RCMs and low correlation between RCM and reanalysis outputs. Root mean square deviations (RMSDs) between all outputs in the monthly time series for each variable are shown to be significant at fine spatial scales relative to the magnitude of annual deviations. Correcting for systematic differences results in significant reductions in RMSDs, suggesting the importance of observations and further development of bias-correction techniques.
Seasonal melting of glaciers and snow from the western Third Pole (TP) plays important role in sustaining water supplies downstream. However, the future water availability of the region, and even today's runoff regime, are both hotly debated and inadequately quantified. Here, we characterize the contemporary flow regimes and systematically assess the future evolution of total water availability, seasonal shifts, and dry and wet discharge extremes in four most meltwater‐dominated basins in the western TP, by using a process‐based, well‐established glacier‐hydrology model, well‐constrained historical reference climate data, and the ensemble of 22 global climate models with an advanced statistical downscaling and bias correction technique. We show that these basins face sharply diverging water futures under 21st century climate change. In RCP scenarios 4.5 and 8.5, increased precipitation and glacier runoff in the Upper Indus and Yarkant basins more than compensate for decreased winter snow accumulation, boosting annual and summer water availability through the end of the century. In contrast, the Amu and Syr Darya basins will become more reliant on rainfall runoff as glacier ice and seasonal snow decline. Syr Darya summer river‐flows, already low, will fall by 16%–30% by end‐of‐century, and striking increases in peak flood discharge (by >60%), drought duration (by >1 month) and drought intensity (by factor 4.6) will compound the considerable water‐sharing challenges on this major transboundary river.
Here we use high-precision carbon isotope data (δ¹³C-CO2) to show atmospheric CO2 during Marine Isotope Stage 4 (MIS 4, ~70.5-59 ka) was controlled by a succession of millennial-scale processes. Enriched δ¹³C-CO2 during peak glaciation suggests increased ocean carbon storage. Variations in δ¹³C-CO2 in early MIS 4 suggest multiple processes were active during CO2 drawdown, potentially including decreased land carbon and decreased Southern Ocean air-sea gas exchange superposed on increased ocean carbon storage. CO2 remained low during MIS 4 while δ¹³C-CO2 fluctuations suggest changes in Southern Ocean and North Atlantic air-sea gas exchange. A 7 ppm increase in CO2 at the onset of Dansgaard-Oeschger event 19 (72.1 ka) and 27 ppm increase in CO2 during late MIS 4 (Heinrich Stadial 6, ~63.5-60 ka) involved additions of isotopically light carbon to the atmosphere. The terrestrial biosphere and Southern Ocean air-sea gas exchange are possible sources, with the latter event also involving decreased ocean carbon storage.
1. Animal abundance estimation is increasingly based on drone or aerial survey photography. Manual post-processing has been used extensively, however volumes of such data are increasing, necessitating some level of automation, either for complete counting, or as a labour-saving tool. Any automated processing can be challenging when using the tools on species that nest in close formation such as Pygoscelid penguins. 2. We present here an adaptation of state-of-the-art crowd-counting methodologies for counting of penguins from aerial photography. 3. The crowd-counting model performed significantly better in terms of model performance and computational efficiency than standard Faster RCNN deep-learning approaches and gave an error rate of only 0.8 percent. 4. Crowd-counting techniques as demonstrated here have the ability to vastly improve our ability to count animals in tight aggregations, which will demonstrably improve monitoring efforts from aerial imagery.
Tides significantly affect polar coastlines by modulating ice shelf melt and modifying shelf water properties through transport and mixing. However, the effect of tides on the marine carbonate chemistry in such regions, especially around Antarctica, remains largely unexplored. We address this topic with two case studies in a coastal polynya in the south-eastern Weddell Sea, neighbouring the Ekström Ice Shelf. The case studies were conducted in January 2015 (PS89) and January 2019 (PS117), capturing semi-diurnal oscillations in the water column. These are pronounced in both physical and biogeochemical variables for PS89. During rising tide, advection of sea ice meltwater from the north-east created a fresher, warmer, and more deeply mixed water column with lower dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) content. During ebbing tide, water from underneath the ice shelf decreased the polynya's temperature, increased the DIC and TA content, and created a more stratified water column. The variability during the PS117 case study was much smaller, as it had less sea ice meltwater input during rising tide and was better mixed with sub-ice shelf water. The contrasts in the variability between the two case studies could be wind and sea ice driven, and they underline the complexity and highly dynamic nature of the system. The variability in the polynya induced by the tides results in an air–sea CO2 flux that can range between a strong sink (−24 mmol m−2 d−1) and a small source (3 mmol m−2 d−1) on a semi-diurnal timescale. If the variability induced by tides is not taken into account, there is a potential risk of overestimating the polynya's CO2 uptake by 67 % or underestimating it by 73 %, compared to the average flux determined over several days. Depending on the timing of limited sampling, the polynya may appear to be a source or a sink of CO2. Given the disproportionate influence of polynyas on heat and carbon exchange in polar oceans, we recommend future studies around the Antarctic and Arctic coastlines to consider the timing of tidal currents in their sampling strategies and analyses. This will help constrain variability in oceanographic measurements and avoid potential biases in our understanding of these highly complex systems.
The response of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to past intervals of oceanic and atmospheric warming is still not well constrained but is critical for understanding both past and future sea-level change. Furthermore, the ice sheet in the Wilkes Subglacial Basin appears to have undergone thinning and ice discharge events during recent decades. Here we combine glaciological evidence on ice sheet elevation from the TALDICE ice core with offshore sedimentological records and ice sheet modelling experiments to reconstruct the ice dynamics in the Wilkes Subglacial Basin over the past 350,000 years. Our results indicate that the Wilkes Subglacial Basin experienced an extensive retreat 330,000 years ago and a more limited retreat 125,000 years ago. These changes coincide with warmer Southern Ocean temperatures and elevated global mean sea level during those interglacial periods, confirming the sensitivity of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin ice sheet to ocean warming and its potential role in sea-level change. Crotti et al. reconstructed the dynamics of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (Antarctica) during the past 350,000 years. Their study reveals that a portion of the East Antarctic ice sheet experienced an extensive retreat 330,000 years ago.
The combination of the Pine Island Ice Shelf (PIIS) draft and a seabed ridge beneath it form a topographic barrier, restricting access of warm Circumpolar Deep Water to a cavity inshore of the ridge, thus exerting an important control on PIIS basal ablation. In addition, PIIS has recently experienced several large calving events and further calving could significantly alter the cavity geometry. Changes in the ice front location, together with changes in ice thickness, might relax the topographic barrier and thus significantly change basal melt rates. Here, we consider the impact of past, and possible future, calving events on PIIS melt rates. We use a high‐resolution ocean model to simulate melt rates in both an idealized domain whose geometry captures the salient features of Pine Island Glacier, and a realistic geometry accurately resembling it, to explore how calving affects melt rates. The idealized simulations reveal that the melt response to calving has a sensitive dependence on the thickness of the gap between PIIS and the seabed ridge and inform our interpretation of the realistic simulations, which suggest that PIIS melt rates did not respond significantly to recent calving. However, the mean melt rate increases approximately linearly with further calving, and is amplified by approximately 10% relative to present day once the ice front reaches the ridge‐crest, taking less than one decade if calving maintains its present rate. This provides strong evidence that calving may represent an important, but as yet unexplored, contribution to the ice‐ocean sensitivity of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
With rapid, sector‐specific climatic changes impacting the Southern Ocean, we need circumpolar‐scale biomass data of its plankton taxa to improve food web models, blue carbon budgets and resource management. Here, we provide a new dataset on mesozooplankton biomass with 2909 records spanning the last 90 yr, and describe, in comparable carbon units, their circumpolar distribution alongside those of phytoplankton, Antarctic krill, and salps. With our datasets, we estimate total summer carbon biomasses for phytoplankton (36 MT), mesozooplankton (67 MT), krill (30 MT), and salps (1.7 MT). The mesozooplankton value is much higher than previously reported and, added to that of krill and salps, points to an enormous overall biomass of zooplankton in the Southern Ocean. This means that the pyramids of biomass are often inverted, with higher biomass of zooplankton than of phytoplankton. Such high biomasses suggest key roles of grazers in nutrient cycling and we estimate an export of ~ 50 Mt C yr−1, solely from mortality of overwintering zooplankton that typically reside at depth. Deep lipid respiration (the lipid pump), for example, would increase this export even further. While inverted biomass pyramids prevailed at mid latitudes (50°–70°S), the balance of taxa differed regionally: for example, with biomass dominance by phytoplankton (highest latitudes and Pacific sector), mesozooplankton (Kerguelen Plateau), krill (north and east Scotia Sea), and salps (Crozet area). In light of contrasting climate change impacts between these sectors, we provide data that will underpin biogeochemical and food web models, blue carbon budgets, and the planning of marine protected areas.
We use meteorological measurements from three drifting buoys to evaluate the performance of the ERA‐Interim and ERA5 atmospheric reanalyses from the European Center for Medium‐Range Weather Forecasts over the Weddell Sea ice zone. The temporal variability in surface pressure and near‐surface air temperature is captured well by the two reanalyses but both reanalyses exhibit a warm bias relative to the buoy measurements. This bias is small at temperatures close to 0°C but reaches 5–10°C at −40°C. For two of the buoys the mean temperature bias in ERA5 is significantly smaller than that in ERA‐Interim while for the third buoy the biases in the two products are comparable. 10 m wind speed biases in both reanalyses are small and may largely result from measurement errors associated with icing of the buoy anemometers. The biases in downwelling shortwave and longwave radiation are significant in both reanalyses but we caution that the pattern of bias is consistent with potential errors in the buoy measurements, caused by accumulation of snow and ice on the radiometers. Overall, our study suggests that, with the exception of near‐surface temperature, both reanalyses reproduce the buoy measurements to within the limits of measurement uncertainty. We suggest that the significant biases in near‐surface air temperature may result from the simplified representation of sea ice used in the reanalysis models, and we recommend the use of a more sophisticated representation of sea ice, including variable ice and snow thicknesses, in future reanalyses.
The response of the Earth’s magnetotail current sheet to the external solar wind driver is highly time-dependent and asymmetric. For example, the current sheet twists in response to variations in the By component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), and is hinged by the dipole tilt. Understanding the timescales over which these asymmetries manifest is of particular importance during geomagnetic storms when the dynamics of the tail control substorm activity. To investigate this, we use the Gorgon MHD model to simulate a geomagnetic storm which commenced on 3 May 2014, and was host to multiple By and Bz reversals and a prolonged period of southward IMF driving. We find that the twisting of the current sheet is well-correlated to IMF By throughout the event, with the angle of rotation increasing linearly with downtail distance and being more pronounced when the tail contains less open flux. During periods of southward IMF the twisting of the central current sheet responds most strongly at a timelag of ∼ 100 min for distances beyond 20 RE, consistent with the 1–2 h convection timescale identified in the open flux content. Under predominantly northward IMF the response of the twisting is bimodal, with the strongest correlations between 15 and 40 RE downtail being at a shorter timescale of ∼ 30 min consistent with that estimated for induced By due to wave propagation, compared to a longer timescale of ∼ 3 h further downtail again attributed to convection. This indicates that asymmetries in the magnetotail communicated by IMF By are influenced mostly by global convection during strong solar wind driving, but that more prompt induced By effects can dominate in the near-Earth tail and during periods of weaker driving. These results provide new insight into the characteristic timescales of solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling.
Current understanding of ecological and evolutionary processes underlying island biodiversity is heavily shaped by empirical data from plants and birds, although arthropods comprise the overwhelming majority of known animal species, and as such can provide key insights into processes governing biodiversity. Novel high throughput sequencing (HTS) approaches are now emerging as powerful tools to overcome limitations in the availability of arthropod biodiversity data, and hence provide insights into these processes. Here we explore how these tools might be most effectively exploited for comprehensive and comparable inventory and monitoring of insular arthropod biodiversity. We first review the strengths, limitations and potential synergies among existing approaches of high throughput barcode sequencing. We consider how this can be complemented with deep learning approaches applied to image analysis to study arthropod biodiversity. We then explore how these approaches can be implemented within the framework of an island Genomic Observatories Network (iGON) for the advancement of fundamental and applied understanding of island biodiversity. To this end, we identify seven island biology themes at the interface of ecology, evolution and conservation biology, within which collective and harmonised efforts in HTS arthropod inventory could yield significant advances in island biodiversity research.
Glaciers are key components of the mountain water towers of Asia and are vital for downstream domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses. The glacier mass loss rate over the southeastern Tibetan Plateau is among the highest in Asia and has accelerated in recent decades. This acceleration has been attributed to increased warming, but the mechanisms behind these glaciers’ high sensitivity to warming remain unclear, while the influence of changes in precipitation over the past decades is poorly quantified. Here, we reconstruct glacier mass changes and catchment runoff since 1975 at a benchmark glacier, Parlung No. 4, to shed light on the drivers of recent mass losses for the monsoonal, spring-accumulation glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau. Our modeling demonstrates how a temperature increase (mean of 0.39 ∘ C ⋅dec ⁻¹ since 1990) has accelerated mass loss rates by altering both the ablation and accumulation regimes in a complex manner. The majority of the post-2000 mass loss occurred during the monsoon months, caused by simultaneous decreases in the solid precipitation ratio (from 0.70 to 0.56) and precipitation amount (–10%), leading to reduced monsoon accumulation (–26%). Higher solid precipitation in spring (+18%) during the last two decades was increasingly important in mitigating glacier mass loss by providing mass to the glacier and protecting it from melting in the early monsoon. With bare ice exposed to warmer temperatures for longer periods, icemelt and catchment discharge have unsustainably intensified since the start of the 21st century, raising concerns for long-term water supply and hazard occurrence in the region.
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221 members
Nigel P. Meredith
  • Space Weather and Atmosphere
Andrew Clarke
  • Emeritus Fellow
Chester J Sands
  • BAS Research Centre
Katrin Linse
  • Environmental Change and Evolution
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