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Peering through the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to reveal geology, crustal architecture and tectonic influences on ice sheet dynamics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REVEAL (Peering through the East Antarctic Ice Sheet to reveal geology, crustal architecture and tectonic influences on ice sheet dynamics)

Reporting period: 2015-05-18 to 2017-05-17

Antarctica is a pivotal component of the global climatic system however it remains the least known continent on Earth from a geological view point. Geothermal heat flow depends on several geological factors including mantle heat flux, heat production of the crust, and tectonic history. The heat flux underneath the ice in Antarctica is fundamentally important because it influences the basal melting of the ice and thereby defines the boundary condition for ice sheet behaviour, subglacial hydrology, and sea-level change. In addition, the heat flux helps provide an insight into the subglacial geology. However, recent assessments of the large-scale heat flux underneath the Antarctic continent have shown significant differences, and this parameter is very poorly understood. REVEAL aimed to explore the interaction of subglacial geology and ice behaviour across the entire Antarctic continent and it provided an improved knowledge of the geothermal heat flux and its fundamental impact for several scientific communities, including glaciology and the solid Earth sciences. In addition, our potential fields and tectonic models and interpretations enabled us to test several hypotheses regarding the effects of tectonic collision, accretion and rifting on the continent as well as improving understanding of the impact of supercontinental assembly and break up on Antarctica. The REVEAL project has a strong international dimension and it delivered several high-profile publications and dissemination activities. It has also provided unique and timely training and career development opportunities for the Experienced Researcher.
While working on the project the Experience Researcher, Dr. Yasmina Martos (YM), recognized that the large-scale heat flux underneath Antarctica is not well known. It is in fact the least known parameter underneath the ice, despite having fundamental importance to several scientific communities, including glaciology and solid Earth sciences. A superior methodology was used to derive a new heat flux and this has been independently verified using borehole data. The results are of higher resolution and higher internal coherency than previously estimated. This methodology and results will lead to three first author high-impact publications and other co-authored manuscripts.

The next target was to estimate the basal conditions underneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet, such as basal temperature and melt rates incorporating the new geothermal heat flux results and an advance in ice-sheet velocity models.

Additionally, as a result of advance training on potential field modelling and interpretation, tectonic reconstructions have been carried out during the project.

The REVEAL project had a strong international dimension (e.g. collaborations between UK, Germany, Spain and Russia) and it delivered several high profile publications and dissemination activities. The project also provided training and career development opportunities for YM and also widened her experience into ice-sheet modelling and subglacial environments.
We provided an advanced new geothermal heat flux distribution, and new basal temperature and melt rate maps underneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The results are of higher resolution and much higher internal coherency than previously estimated. These novel maps are helping the efforts to drill and recover the oldest climate record from the ice sheet, as well as providing a springboard for future drilling initiatives from the paleoclimate community. Additionally, the project increased YM’s reputation across a range of scientific communities and her works are accepted as a significant improvement within those communities. She has been also invited as a speaker in seminars and workshops in several international institutions.
YM has had her first major opportunity to manage a broad geophysical research project, supported by leading experts in the field. Project management and enhanced research were key elements, which will enable YM to supervise doctoral candidates in the future, and also propose major research grant applications and establish her own research group. In addition, YM has supervised three Master Thesis in Geophysics during the project. The Marie Curie Fellowship has provided her with the expertise and the top tier publications, international collaborations, conferences and dissemination experience, which are essential for her to reach higher academic and scientific maturity. This is a fundamental requirement to be competitive for permanent academic positions in either European Universities or research institutions. Many of the skills gained are also transferable to industry.