The fourth IPCC report highlights the importance of ice sheet studies
There are several major responses in the climate system that are not accounted for in the projections made in IPCC’s last assessment report. One of these is how the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica respond to future warming.
Today’s global circulation models (GCMs) have limitations in dealing with major climate unknowns such as uptake of CO2 in the World’s oceans, release of greenhouse gases from frozen soil, changes in biomass on land and in the oceans as well as the dynamical response of ice sheets. Since about 92% of ice on land is stored in the Antarctic ice sheet even small changes in mass can have severe, global effects. For example, a one per cent reduction of the Antarctic ice sheet will raise the global sea level with about 65 cm, more than what IPCC projects for this century. Recent studies in Greenland and Antarctica have uncovered our limited knowledge of how stable these ice sheets are in a global warming scenario. The traverse will collect spatial and temporal information on variations in snow accumulation which will enable us to estimate the role of Antarctica on global sea level more precisely.