Scientific American Features Domack Research

Eugene Domack
Eugene Domack

"Witness to an Antarctic Meltdown - Scientists Trek to Collapsing Glaciers to Assess Antarctica’s Meltdown and Sea-Level Rise," an article that appeared in the Scientific American’s July issue, focused on research performed during the 2010 LARISSA (LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica) expedition for which Hamilton Geosciences Professor Eugene Domack served as Principal Investigator. Writer Douglas Fox, who accompanied the 30 scientists on the two-month expedition, described the researchers’ efforts to determine how fast the continent is melting and what that might mean for sea-level rise.

Fox focused primarily on the installation of devices to measure and document the deterioration of ice shelves. One of the major questions the scientists were trying to answer was whether the ice shelf breakups are truly unprecedented. Domack, the Joel W. Johnson Family Professor of Geosciences, had previously determined that the Larsen B ice shelf, which collapsed in 2002, had not experienced a similar retreat in 11,000 years.

Precisions GPS units Domack had bolted into bedrock outcrops around the perimeter of Larsen B show that the region is now rising 1.8 centimeters a year. [This is] “remarkably fast” Domack was quoted in the article. “Measure that uplift … and you can estimate the amount of ice spilling out.”

Fox described the Larsen region as “an area that punishes those who try to pry apart its secrets. Prior to the 2010 Palmer expedition Domack had sailed to the area on five earlier research cruises, three of which never reached their geographic target because of brutal sea ice. ‘It can be really frustrating,’ he admits. But important questions are bound to keep him and Scambos coming back,” Fox concluded.

Photographer Maria Stenzel provided the images for the article and the accompanying slide show.

Back to Top