Field Trip to the British Antarctic Survey Facilities in Cambridge – UKCCSRC Biannual April 2014

Written by Andrea de Santis, PhD student from University of Leeds, whose attendance at the Biannual Meeting was supported by the UKCCSRC ECR Meeting fund

The field trip took place on the morning of Wednesday 2nd April just before the official starting of the UKCCSRC Biannual Meeting in Cambridge.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is based in Cambridge and is responsible for the UK’s national scientific activities in Antarctica.

As an ECR involved in Carbon Capture and Storage it has been a great opportunity to find out how the anthropogenic emissions are affecting our planet’s climate; in fact, an effective way to examine global warming effects is to monitor the extent and the behaviour of sea ice.

 An interesting presentation by Dr John King gave us insights on the Antarctic paradox (i.e. in a warming world, the overall extent of the Antarctic ice sea has showed a slightly increase in the last decades). This apparent paradox has been widely exploited by climate skeptics all over the world; however, a closer look at the Antarctic climate features, especially wind and ocean patterns, showed how the local sea ice trend is compatible with the global warming and so there is no Antarctic paradox.

The observation of the effect on global warming is only a small part of the role played by polar ice in climate science; because polar ice can range in age from several hundred to several hundreds of thousands of years it is a paramount source of information for climate scientists. In fact, polar ice can be regarded as a long-term record containing information on past atmospheric composition and temperature. This information is locked in the ice in the form of small air bubbles entrained within the ice itself.

For example, it is thanks to the analyses of air bubbles contained in these ice cores that scientists know that our planet has experienced several Ice Ages followed by warmer periods in the past. 

Furthermore, the analysis of the air bubbles contained in ice cores revealed the strong link between carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and the global temperature; it can also be clearly showed how human related emissions are causing an increase in the CO2 concentration at rates unprecedented in hundreds of thousands of years. 

Thanks to the BAS’ activities, we are now aware that we are playing a small but important role in rescuing the world from the dangers arising from climate change.

For photos from the trip can be seen on our Flickr page