International Scientists Study West Antarctic Ice Sheet to Determine Effects of Ocean Warming and Future Outcomes

12 February 2020, Salt Lake City, Utah – Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) played an integral part in supporting research, led by UNSW Sydney, into mass melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the Last Interglacial. A team of international scientists, led by Professor of Earth Science & Climate Change Chris Turney, have just released findings on Antarctica’s sensitivity to warming in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Their research suggests that mass melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet increased sea levels by more than 3 meters during a period known as the Last Interglacial (129,000-116,000 years ago) and that this could happen again.

“The melting was likely caused by less than 2°C ocean warming – and that’s something that has major implications for the future, given the ocean temperature increase and West Antarctic melting that’s happening today,” Professor Turney says.

The team conducted their research at the Patriot Hills Blue Ice Area, just 50 miles (80 km) from ALE’s Union Glacier Camp, on the periphery of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The unique topography of blue-ice areas, where katabatic winds bring ancient ice to the surface, allowed them to use horizontal ice core analysis, instead of having to drill kilometers down into the ice. Fieldwork was done under ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) Linkage Project, with financial and logistic support by Linkage Partner Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions who has a 30 year history supporting scientific research on the 7th continent.

Isotope measurements revealed a gap in the ice sheet record, coinciding with extreme sea level increases of the Last Interglacial and suggesting rapid ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

“Our study highlights that the Antarctic Ice Sheet may lie close to a tipping point, which once passed may commit us to rapid sea level rise for millennia to come. This underlines the urgent need to reduce and control greenhouse gas emissions that are driving warming today,” warns Professor Christopher Fogwill, co-author and Director of The Institute for Sustainable Futures at the UK University of Keele.

Notably, the researchers warn that this tipping point may be closer than we think and that we must not only meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets, restricting global warming to 2˚C, but exceed them.

The full research article can be found at PNAS.Org Early Last Interglacial ocean warming drove substantial ice mass loss from Antarctica or contact Professor Chris Turney. Email:


About Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions: ALE is the main company providing air and ground logistics for government research, private expeditions and tours travelling to the interior of Antarctica. ALE operates scheduled inter-continental flights to Antarctica from Chile each year via commercially-chartered jet aircraft. These flights land on a DGAC-certified runway in the Ellsworth Mountains which is part of the Chilean Airports and Aerodromes System. A US-authorized company, ALE is committed to the safety of its passengers, aircrew, staff and the Antarctic environment. The company’s history stems back over 30 years. More at:

Follow ALE on Social Media:



About CABAH: ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage. Our goal is to tell the epic story of Australia’s rich and distinctive natural and human history, by revolutionizing our knowledge of the events and processes that have shaped this nation, and combining that knowledge with cutting-edge predictive modelling techniques to manage and protect our natural and cultural resources into the future. More at:

Movies and images from this study can be accessed from:
Please credit

Please name the journal and its authors in any story or shared press. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BMC’s open access policy.

Sign up for the newsletter

Thanks for Signing Up!