S.T. Lee Lecture 2014

Prof. Rob DeConto in Antarctica

The fate of the Antarctic ice sheet: Lessons from the geological past and how they are informing future predictions

Professor Robert DeConto, 3 September 2014

Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts Amhurst, USA

View the talk here - 2014 S.T. Lee Lecture (our apologies for the quality of this recording which was due to technical difficulties).

Synopsis of lecture

The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels more than 50 metres. It poses the single greatest threat to the world's shorelines and coastal cities. Emerging geological records imply a surprising sensitivity of the ice sheet, with serious implications for our future response to climate and ocean warming. Recent observations show an accelerating retreat of some major outlet glaciers, especially in West Antarctica, where the bed of the ice sheet lies hundreds of metres below sea level - hinting that a massive runaway ice retreat is already underway. This lecture will explore what geological records tell us about the past history of the ice sheet, our attempts to develop numerical models to simulate those past changes, and what the models say about the ice sheet’s long-term future over coming decades and centuries.

Robert DeConto

Rob DeConto is a Professor of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he is a senior scientist in the Climate System Research Center. Rob’s background spans geophysics, oceanography, and atmospheric science, and he has held research positions at both the United States National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His early research used numerical climate models to better understand the mechanisms responsible for past periods of extreme global warmth. In the last decade, his focus has shifted toward the polar regions- including fieldwork in Antarctica, the development of numerical climate-ice sheet models, and the application of those models to a wide range of past and future climate scenarios. Professor DeConto serves on a number of national and international science boards and advisory panels and he is co-chair of PAIS (Past Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics), an international research programme under the auspices of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the International Council for Science.