National Public Radio science reporter Richard Harris interviewed Eugene Domack, the Joel W. Johnson Family Professor of Geosciences, for a segment on All Things Considered on Aug. 22 titled “Humans’ Role In Antarctic Ice Melt Is Unclear.” The broadcast reported on an article published in the journal Nature focused on the research of Robert Mulvaney and colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey that demonstrated that the current sharp warming trend is not entirely unique.
Domack’s research, published in the journal Nature in 2005, provided evidence that the break-up of Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf was caused by a combination of long-term thinning over thousands of years and short term cumulative increases in surface air temperature that have exceeded the natural variation of regional climate during the Holocene period.
During the interview, Domack said that it is hard to distinguish natural cycles from human-caused trends in something as dynamic as ice. These changes in Antarctica are mirrored with similar changes now in ice-sheet disintegration in the Canadian arctic, according to Domack. "That tells you something is up that's more widespread than a local phenomenon," Domack said, adding that global changes are more likely due to human activity.
The Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, shattered and separated from the continent 10 years ago. The 650 foot-thick, 1,250-square-mile ice shelf had existed since the last ice age.
Domack was awarded a National Science Foundation grant that funds an international, multi-year, collaborative research project, "Collaborative Research in IPY: Abrupt Environmental Change in the Larsen Ice Shelf System, a Multidisciplinary Approach - Marine and Quaternary Geosciences" to address the changes occurring in the Antarctic Peninsula region as a consequence of the abrupt collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf System. The project, called LARISSA or LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica, began in 2008 and was most recently reported on by Scientific American in an article titled “Witness to an Antarctic Meltdown.”