Lecture tells tropical tales of polar ice

Data about past changes in the Antarctic ice sheet can come from unexpected places—including coral fossils on tropical islands.

These fossils provide records of how the ice sheet behaved during warmer periods and give insight into how the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet could affect coastlines in the future.

Join Professor Andrea Dutton, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre, and the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation for the 17th annual S.T. Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies: Tropical tales of polar ice, to hear more about Professor Dutton’s extensive research in this area.

“Human experience is shaped and sometimes forever altered by the extremes we experience in our lifetimes,” Professor Dutton says. “Living through an era of rapid global warming brings with it new extremes that impact our lives and livelihoods in a myriad of ways.

“One of the more visual impacts of climate change is the increased frequency of coastal flooding as sea levels rise. The greatest uncertainty in projecting the tempo and rhythm of future sea-level rise is knowing how the Antarctic ice sheet will respond to sustained warming in the atmosphere and oceans.”

Professor Dutton is an expert in past climate and sea-level change. Her main research focus is to establish the behaviour of sea level and polar ice sheets during past warm periods to better inform us about future sea-level rise, combining a range of disciplines from geophysics to coral reef ecology to complete her work. She is also active in science communication, working to share her research with the public and featuring frequently in the media. She is currently a Professor in Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and came to New Zealand on a US Fulbright Scholarship. She is also a Fellow of the Geologic Society of America, was named as one of Rolling Stone’s ‘25 People Shaping the Future’, and was recently named a McArthur Fellow.

Associate Professor Rob McKay, Director of the Antarctic Research Centre, says that Professor Dutton’s work on sea level records from tropical regions emphasises that future Antarctic ice sheet melt will have far-reaching global consequences.

“Professor Dutton’s work investigates sea level records from tropical corals reefs, which essentially act as a “dipstick” measurement of past global sea level change resulting from changes in ice sheet melt.

“Such data allow us to understand which sectors of Earth’s ice sheets are most vulnerable to future melt under a range of possible climate scenarios, and more importantly informs models used to project potential rates of future sea-level rise in coming decades to centuries.”

What: Tropical tales of polar ice: the 17th Annual S.T. Lee Lecture in Antarctic Studies
When: 16 June 2020, 4-5 pm
Where: Te Toki a Rata Lecture Theatre 1, Kelburn campus, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

Please note there will be limited capacity for attending the lecture in person, but the event will be available on Zoom as well.

Please register via this link. You can select either the Zoom or in-person option for attendance when you register.

For more information contact Dao Polsiri, Antarctic Research Centre dao.polsiri@vuw.ac.nz or 04 463 6587.