Coulman High Drilling Project (CHP)

Drilling beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Regional detail of Coulman High study area on MODIS image (250 m resolution) from November 2010

The overarching objective is to establish a history of Cenozoic climate, tectonic and glacial changes in an ice-proximal setting to determine the sensitivity of Antarctica’s ice sheets to a range of climatic and tectonic forcings. The sedimentary archives to be recovered in these two ~800-m drill holes will offer a window into the range of environments, ecosystems and tectonic events in the Ross Sea region as it stepped from the warm, high-CO2 Greenhouse world of the Eocene into the lower-CO2 and highly variable Icehouse climate of the Oligocene and early Miocene. Antarctica was the keystone in this global climate transition and hosted the growth of ice sheets that started major cryosphere influence on global systems. The sensitivity of the climate system to elevated levels of greenhouse gases, the strength of polar amplification, and the behavior of the AIS in a world warmer than today remain fundamental questions to be addressed by CHP’s integrated data-climate modeling studies.  These seek to reduce the large uncertainties in predictions of future ice-sheet dynamics and sea level, in part by testing models with ancient scenarios under conditions warmer than today. To improve predictions of long-term future climate and sea level, it is imperative to obtain geological records of past polar climates and ice sheets from time intervals when atmospheric CO2 was two to four times higher than present levels. 

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