Climate Research and Development ProgramClimate R&D Program

Ice Dynamics, Paleoclimates, and Ice Cores

Air bubbles (left) and ice crystals (right) in an ice core sample contain a comprehensive history of the Earth's climate.
Air bubbles (left) and ice crystals (right) in an ice core sample contain a comprehensive history of the Earth's climate.

This project is currently focused on contributing to a new, high-resolution paleoclimate record being developed from Central West Antarctica, and on the development of a coupled paleoclimate / ice dynamical study of the most recent deglaciation of the Ross Embayment through characterization of the physical properties of ice cores recently recovered from these locations. The first aspect of this project is contributing to the development of a robust climate record of West Antarctica that will compare directly with the high-resolution record developed from Central Greenland during the 1990s. This new record will facilitate a comparison of the timing of past global climate events between the northern and southern hemispheres and the influence of such events on the climate regimes in West Antarctica. The second aspect of this project investigates the most recent deglaciation of the Ross Embayment and its effect on the flow and elevation response of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The WAIS is recognized as the largest body of grounded ice most susceptible to the effects of rising sea level and warming sea-surface temperatures.

Why is this research important?

Ice cores recovered from the polar regions of the Earth contain the most comprehensive, direct record of the planet's high-latitude climate for the past 800,000 years. Understanding the climate history of the polar regions of the Earth helps us put modern climate change into a larger temporal context and provides us with a clearer picture of what the consequences of a warmer climate will be on glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets. This, in turn provides a clearer understanding of the potential magnitude, rate, and timing of sea-level rise in a global-warming scenario.

Project Lead: Joan Fitzpatrick
Project Team: DeAnna Laurel

Related Projects:
   West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Ice Core
   Antarctic Research Centre

7 publications matching the specified parameters were found.

Buizert, C., Cuffey, K., Severinghaus, J., Baggenstos, D., Fudge, T., Steig, E., Markle, B., Winstrup, M., Rhodes, R., and Brook, E., 2014, The WAIS-Divide deep ice core WD2014 chronology-Part 2: Methane synchronization (68-31 ka BP) and the gas age-ice age difference: Climate of the Past Discussions, v. 10, no. 4, p. 3537-3584.

Fitzpatrick, J.J., Voigt, D.E., Fegyveresi, J.M., Stevens, N.T., Spencer, M.K., Jihong, C.D., Alley, R.B., Jardine, G.E., Cravens, E.D., and Wilen, L.A., 2014, Physical properties of the WAIS Divide ice core: Journal of Glaciology, v. 60, no. 224, p. 1181.

Prescott, C.L., Haywood, A.M., Dolan, A.M., Hunter, S.J., Pope, J.O., and Pickering, S.J., 2014, Assessing orbitally-forced interglacial climate variability during the mid-Pliocene Warm Period: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 400, p. 261-271.

Wing, S., Merlin, L., Donald, E.V., Joan, J.F., and Talghader, J.J., 2014, Instruments and Methods Crystal orientation measurements using transmission and backscattering: Journal of Glaciology, v. 60, no. 224, p. 1135.

Fitzpatrick, J., Gray, F., Dubiel, R., Langman, J., Moring, J.B., Norman, L.M., Page, W.R., and Parcher, J.W., 2013, The borderlands and cliamte change, in Updike, R.G., Ellis, E.G., Page, W.R., Parker, M.J., Hestbeck, J.B., and Horak, W.F., eds., United States-Mexican Borderlands - Facing tomorrow's challenges through USGS science: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1380, p. 234-271.
Available at:

Fitzpatrick, J.J., 2013, Digital-image processing and image analysis of glacier ice: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 7, chap. D1, 21 p.
Available at:

WAIS Divide Project Members, 2013, Onset of deglacial warming in West Antarctica driven by local orbital forcing: Nature, v. 500, p. 440-444.
Available at:

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Website Manager
Page Last Modified: Thursday, September 10, 2015