BAS Geology and Geophysics

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Antarctic Survey

Abstract

This programme works to understand the geological structure and tectonic evolution of the Antarctic continent to generate new knowledge about its key role in the evolution of the Earth System itself. Our aim is to use state of the art technologies to explore both the landscape and the deeper structure of Earth hidden beneath the thick ice sheets that cover more than 99% of Antarctica. By achieving this we will produce new geological and geophysical maps and improve models and simulations of key geological processes such as mountain building, basin formation, magmatism and crustal growth. We work collaboratively with national and international partners to deploy a combination of airborne and marine geophysics, spectral remote sensing, field mapping and geochemistry and geochronology to improve our understanding of the geological evolution of Antarctica and its super-continental linkages. Combining this with results from global geological studies we can interpret the role of Antarctica in the breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent as well as the assembly of earlier supercontinents, such as Rodinia and Columbia. Understanding Antarctic geology is also critical for comprehending the internal factors affecting ice flow dynamics and long-term ice sheet stability, in addition to climate and ocean processes. Our research provides unprecedented insights into the structure and evolution of interior East Antarctica and on the fundamental tectonic boundary between East and West Antarctica.

Publications

10 25 50

 
Title 3D view of the Gamburtsev Mountains 
Description The artwork is displayed in the BAS Directorate and exemplifies data as art with stunning mysterious subglacial landscapes revealed under the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that reveal the form and extent of the least known mountain range on Earth- the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Nice visibility for geosciences research and frontier exploration for senior management and visitors of BAS 
 
Description Five major findings from Geology and Geophysics are highlighted here.
Firstly, we have published the most updated magnetic anomaly compilation and database for Antarctica in collaboration with 22 research institutes from 13 countries (Golynsky, Ferraccioli et al., GRL, 2018). This was the result of over 5 years of international collaboration made possible with additional external funding and support from the Korean Polar Research Institute and is a transformative piece of work for the geomagnetic and broader geosciences community and a key geophysical tool for further research into the tectonic make up and processes that shaped Antarctica through its complex geological history. The new Antarctic continent-scale magnetic compilation will also enable the community to study the much broader linkages between Antarctica and formerly adjacent continents in the global supercontinent cycle that has shaped the evolution of our planet.

The second highlight is the work published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (Diez et al., 2018), that reports on the new radar data that images with unprecedented level of detail the bedrock topography beneath one of the least explored glaciers in East Antarctica, the Recovery Glacier that has been hypothesised from recent modelling studies to be a potential major contributor to sea-level rise.

Two other highlights include the publication of the bed topography hidden beneath the region, where the two major ice sheets of Antarctica meet between the Weddell Sea and South Pole (Winter et al., 2018) and the remarkable discovery of a potential region of high geothermal heat flux at South Pole (Jordan et al., 2018). Both these discoveries emerged from the major and highly successful international effort BAS led, supported by the European Space Agency to explore with airborne geophysics the South Pole region of Antarctica, an area where not even satellites can acquire data due to the inclination of their orbit. These new datasets and discoveries will provide a key foundation for further exploration and are already influencing the communities studying what lies beneath Antarctic ice sheet and the search for the oldest ice in this part of Antarctica.

The last highlight is the work performed within our GOCE+Antarctica and 3D Earth projects of ESA that has led to the development of a new methodology to simplify the use of satellite gravity data to image global tectonics, including the processes that affected the least understood continent on Earth Antarctica (Ebbing et al., 2018). The results published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports generated considerable curiosity also in the general public, as shown by almost 300 news items worldwide. Particularly intriguing is the notion that deep below the Antarctic ice sheets we can see using data from the GOCE satellite data the traces of ancient continents that were formerly attached to Antarctica. While the concept of links between East Antarctica and other continents such as Australia and India is well-known from surface geology, these much deeper satellite-gravity views we have developed are truly unique and will form a new basis for linking the structure of the Antarctic continent with the broader 3D structure of the Earth, as part of an exciting new project supported by the European Space Agency. In the longer term new 4D views of Antarctica (including time) are likely to arise, ultimately shedding fundamental new light into the role of Antarctica in global supercontinent puzzle.
Exploitation Route The results of our studies on geothermal heat flux at both regional and continental scale are key for current international efforts aimed at better quantifying geothermal heat flux in Antarctica (e.g. http://www.conferences.com.au/2018tactical/); Our recent studies on Antarctic tectonics and paleotopography are important for current international research efforts of the paleo-ice sheet and paleoclimate community (e.g. http://pais-conference-2017.inogs.it/). Our current geophysical research in Antarctica is actively contributing to two major international projects supported by the European Space Agency that use satellite gravity data for global geodesy and 3D lithosphere studies. In particular a new initiative of the European Space Agency 3D Earth (https://www.3dearth.uni-kiel.de/en) will take forward some of the research we have performed as part of the PolarGAP (https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/polegap/) and GOCE+Antarctica projects (https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/goceantarctica/). Our new magnetic anomaly compilation for Antarctica (ADMAP 2.0) that includes 3.5 ML line km of data is a keystone for further geophysical and geological studies. Overall, our ongoing geological and geophysical mapping and research efforts provide a critical baseline for long-term UK and international geosciences research in Antarctica and beyond.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Environment

URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/team/science-teams/geosciences/
 
Description EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Fellowship
Amount € 183,455 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2015 
End 05/2017
 
Description European Space Agency tender call
Amount € 70,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 4000115049/15/NL/MP 
Organisation European Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 04/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description European Space Agency tender call
Amount € 951,000 (EUR)
Funding ID ESA Contract N0 400011522/15/NL/FF/gp 
Organisation European Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 12/2015 
End 11/2017
 
Title Airborne geophysics 
Description The airborne geophysics method used includes the acquisition of magnetic, gravity, radio echo sounding and laser scanning datasets. All the groups involved in the research had access to training in the data acquisition and processing techniques required 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The method is relatively standard but the integration of all the systems makes the BAS platform one of the cutting edge platforms internationally 
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/polar-operations/sites-and-facilities/facility/airborne-science-and-technology...
 
Title Improvements to satellite gravity imaging 
Description Working together with the University of Kiel a new tool for exploiting and interpreting global gravity Earth Observation data has been developed. Satellite gravity gradient data are like full tensor airborne gravity data useful for studies of the lithosphere and shallower geology respectively but the simultaneous visualisation and interpretation of these data is complex even for experts in the field. Using simpler curvature and shape index products we can represent the gravity gradient data in a simpler way and we have demonstrated the utility of our products at both global and continent-wide scale, including in particular for ongoing satellite-gravity gradient studies of the Antarctic lithosphere. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The impact is that this tool promises to help with the interpretation of both satellite and airborne gravity datasets. 
URL http://www.3dearth.uni-kiel.de/en/public-data-products
 
Title Antarctic Gravity Database 
Description This is the most complete database to date of gravity anomalies compiled so far containing almost 50 years of international observations including 13 million data points covering an area of 10 million km2, which corresponds to 73% coverage of the continent. The data is a legacy of exploration and will serve as new foundation to study the structure of the crust and lithosphere in Antarctica as well as for geodetic studies and the development of next generation Global Earth Gravity models that before for Antarctica relied mainly on lower spatial resolution satellite observations 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This database will have significant impact on the geodetic. geophysical and geological communities and the research in geological and lithospheric boundary conditions will be important also for the glaciological and paleo-ice sheet community as such conditions can influence ice sheet dynamics and also glacio-isostatic adjustment processes. 
 
Title ICEGRAV dataset 
Description Ferraccioli, F., Corr, H., Jordan, T.A., Forsberg, R., Matsuoka, K., Diez, A., Olesen, A.V., Ghidella, M., Zakrajsek, A., Robinson, C., King, O. 2018. Bed, surface elevation and ice thickness measurements derived from Radar acquired during the ICEGRAV-2013 airborne geophysics campaign. Polar Data Centre, British Antarctic Survey, NERC, Cambridge, UK. DOI: 10.5285/6549203d-da8b-4a22-924b-a9e1471ea7f1 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset contains bed, surface elevation and ice thickness measurements from the Recovery/Slessor/Bailey Region, East Antarctica. Radar data was collected using the 150MHz PASIN radar echo sounding system (Corr et al., 2007) deployed on a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Twin Otter during the ICEGRAV-2013 airborne geophysics campaign (Forsberg et al., 2018). Data is identified by flight and are available in both Geosoft database (.gdb) and ASCII file formats (.xyz). 
URL https://data.bas.ac.uk/full-record.php?id=GB/NERC/BAS/PDC/01055
 
Title Polar gap II recovery lake dataset 
Description Matsuoka, K., Diez, A., Ferraccioli, F., Forsberg, R., Jordan, T., Olesen, A. V., Casal, T. (2020). PolarGap II: Radar data from the Recovery Lakes [Data set]. Norwegian Polar Institute. https://data.npolar.no/dataset/9103190d-9f80-4ea7-88f2-3d7c97297cd8 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Airborne radar data collected during the PolarGap project funded by the European Space Agency. The radar system PASIN of the British Antarctic Survey was used for data collection. Data were collected in December 2015 in a 10 km grid above the Recovery Lakes A, B and C. The csv-data files include Latitude, Longitude, x and y coordinates (Antarctic Polar Stereographic projection, true scale at -71°, EPSG3031), air plane elevation, ice sheet surface elevation (derived from LIDAR data) and corresponding radar sample, bed elevation and corresponding radar sample, ice thickness and uncorrected relative bed return power. Elevations are given in relation to the WGS84 ellipsoid. Corresponding segy-data files contain the radar data. The radar has a center frequency of 150 MHz. As signal a 4 µs chirp was used with a bandwidth of 10 MHz. The used sampling frequency was 22 MHz. For the processing of the data a coherent moving-average filter commonly referred to as an unfocused SAR, was used. Profile P07 and P10: Data collected above the Recovery Lakes A and B. Profile P11: Data collected above the Recovery Lake C. Further data collected south of 83°C within the PolarGap project can be found on the ESA data portal (https://earth.esa.int/web/guest/campaigns). 
URL https://data.npolar.no/dataset/9103190d-9f80-4ea7-88f2-3d7c97297cd8
 
Title Polar gap recovery lake dataset 
Description Matsuoka, K., Diez, A., Ferraccioli, F., Forsberg, R., Jordan, T., Olesen, A. V., Casal, T. (2019). PolarGap: Recovery Lake Airborne Radar Data [Data set]. Norwegian Polar Institute. https://doi.org/10.21334/npolar.2019.ae99f750 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Airborne radar data collected during the PolarGap project funded by the European Space Agency. The radar system PASIN of the British Antarctic Survey was used for data collection. Data were collected in December 2015 in a 10 km grid above the Recovery Lakes A, B and C. The data files include Latitude, Longitude, x and y coordinates (Antarctic Polar Stereographic projection, true scale at -71°, EPSG3031), air plane elevation, ice sheet surface elevation (derived from LIDAR data), bed elevation, ice thickness and uncorrected relative bed return power. Elevations are given in relation to the WGS84 ellipsoid. Bed returned power in all three files are referenced to a single, common refernece level. Profile P07 and P10: Data collected above the Recovery Lakes A and B. Profile P11: Data collected above the Recovery Lake C. The PolarGAP project collected many other flight data south of 83S. Data from those flights are released from ESA's data portal and UK's Polar Data Centre. 
URL https://data.npolar.no/dataset/ae99f750-ca56-48a4-9f1d-b60bc2f68c56
 
Description ADMAP-2 
Organisation VNIIGAZ
Country Russian Federation 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The Russian institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the ocean was via its PI a key player in the the newly launched ADMAP-2 compilation effort supported by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and the International Association of Geodesy and Geophysics and in particular the International Union of Geomagnetism. Our group has contributed a wealth of new aeromagnetic data to the ongoing compilation and I am currently a leading figure in the international steering committee of the effort that aims to compile a next generation magnetic anomaly map and digital database for Antarctica by 2017.
Collaborator Contribution The Russian partner is doing a lot of the processing and re-processing required to achieve the goal funded also by the Koreans.
Impact The main output so far has been a special issue of Tectonophysics I edited in 2013 reporting the case for ADMAP-2 and several regional case studies of geomagnetic investigations as well as a series of workshops and splinter meetings at international conferences including the European Union of Geosciences. This collaborative Antarctic effort will form a new contribution to global efforts of the geophysical community to update the World Magnetic Anomaly Map- a new version of which was presented in summer 2015 and that will likely produce a new version over the next 3-4 years.
Start Year 2013
 
Description AntGG 
Organisation University of Dresden
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The University of Dresden via its PI Mirko Scheinert set up a major working group under the auspices of the Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research and also the International Union of Geodesy to collate and compile all available gravity data for Antarctica. As part of this effort the aerogeophysics group I lead in BAS contributed major data holdings including the latest datasets collected after the International Polar Year. Additional contributions were in data processing and I made substantial contributions to the write up of the paper.
Collaborator Contribution The lead PI coordinated efforts and data mining from almost 50 individuals in 13 different institutions in several countries and via a PhD student applied techniques to merge together all this data and refer it to a reference Global Earth Gravity Earth model that in Antarctica was based largely on satellite data only.
Impact The main output in this reporting period is the publication of a paper in Geophsyical Research Letters and the database of all gridded gravity data for Antarctica that is now in public domain
Start Year 2007
 
Description European Space Agency 
Organisation European Space Agency
Department European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)
Country France 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The BAS Geology and Geophysics team have contributed so far to two major European Space Agency funded projects, namely the PolarGAP project and the GOCE+Antarctica project. As part of these projects we have performed the first major modern aerogeophysical survey of the South Pole frontier to help fill in the data void in satellite gravity data and helped develop innovative 3D models of the Antarctic lithosphere and their influence on processes such as Glacio-Isostatic Adjustment (GIA).
Collaborator Contribution The European Space Agency have funded two major international projects that involved a collaboration between the University of Kiel, the Danish Technical Institute, the University of Utrecht, the Norwegian Polar Institute and BAS.
Impact The main outputs so far have been in the form of conference presentations at several international venues including for example the European Geosciences Union and American Geophysical Union.
Start Year 2015
 
Title Modelling software 
Description Contributions have been made to leading geophysical software for modelling and are ongoing to develop increased capability in Cloud Computing modelling for potential field applications in geosciences 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The impacts are for the moment in our own research capability in larger scale modelling of crustal architecture in the polar regions leveraging on the newly available regional to continental-scale compilations. 
 
Description Invited Keyonote at Japanese Polar Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The National Institute of Polar Research invited me to give a keynote on UK Antarctic geosciences with particular emphasis on aerogeophysical exploration of East Antarctica. The presentation led to new discussions on future collaborations in Antarctic geosciences including partecipation and contributions to ongoing magnetic anomaly exploration of the continent.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Talk at the Geological Society of London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The audience was composed of geologists and geophysicists and retired members of the Geological Society that have since the talk had the opportunity to hear about exciting Antarctic exploration efforts and research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.geologistsassociation.org.uk/lectureabstracts.html
 
Description Invited keynote at China Polar Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The meeting in China was organised to coordinate Chinese and international interests in deep ice core and bedrock drilling in the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains region of East Antarctica. My keynote described the role of NERC/BAS in the exploration of the least understood mountain range on Earth and addressed the major open questions regarding the origin and evolution of the mountain range that could be addressed with future drilling. The presentation played a critical role in formulating plans for site selection for such ambitious future drilling efforts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Media Interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed by Cambridge TV in response to the press release on the Geophysical Research Letters paper I co-authored on the first gravity anomaly compilation over Antarctica. Although this is a relatively small and new TV it does reach several regional groups and I believe this can help towards cementing regional general public interest in BAS activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.cambridge-tv.co.uk/fausto-ferraccioli-of-bas/
 
Description Media Inteview- BBC at AGU 2016 Fall Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The BBC did a media story on my latest European Space Agency Project (PolarGAP) that aims to provide new data to augment global satellite gravity observations with airborne geophysical observations over South Pole. The first results of this project were presented at the AGU 2016 Fall Meeting in San Francisco and the BBC story gave with visibility to this new research and exploration initiative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38333629
 
Description Press Release PolarGAP paper on radar imaging of bedrock troughs 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following the publication of our PolarGAP paper on the discovery of deep basins in the bottleneck region where the East and West Antarctic ice sheets meet between the Weddell Sea and South Pole (Winter et al., 2018, GRL) we released, together with the University of Newcastle, a press release in mid-summer 2018.

There were over 50 media stories worldwide following the press release and in addition to this giving a huge visibility to the discoveries and research performed as part of this ESA project there was an additional positive outcome, as this also contributed towards further strengthening esteem levels for Kate Winter, an early career female scientist, who then in October 2018, was the second ever female scientist to have been awarded the prestigious €150000 Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-44245893
 
Description Press Release on ADMAP 2.0 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following the publication of our paper in GRL by Golynsky et al., (2018) in GRL reporting on the latest magnetic anomaly compilation for the Antarctic continent that now contains 3.5 ML line km of aeromagnetic data and is the result of five years of major collaborative work between 22 institutions in 13 countries worldwide we released a press release.

Circa 30 news items worldwide followed giving major visibility to international Antarctic magnetic anomaly studies for students, experts and the general public alike. Additionally, this activity has helped embed our Antarctic efforts into even broader international efforts aimed at producing the next generation World Magnetic Anomaly Map and database, a key product for the geosciences community and the global resource exploration markets. These activities were also influential as leverage for further external funding from ESA to support ADMAP 2.0+ as part of their global 3D Earth initiative.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/new-generation-magnetic-anomaly-map-helps-unveil-antarctica/
 
Description Press Release on the South Pole geothermal anomaly 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following the publication of our paper in the Nature journal Scientific Reports reporting the unexpected discovery of geothermal heat flux anomaly in the heart of East Antarctica at South Pole form ESA PolarGAP data we released a press release. Circa 30 media news items worldwide resulted from this activity helping showcase to the general public and experts alike the discovery and contributing towards giving further visibility to our pioneering international aerogeophysical exploration effort over the South Pole Frontier and further demonstrating the potential for unexpected discoveries in this type of work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bas.ac.uk/media-post/discovery-of-high-geothermal-heat-at-south-pole/
 
Description Press release on GOCE+Antarctica & 3D Earth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following our publication in the Nature journal Scientific Reports by Ebbing et al., (2018) reporting on the use of enhanced satellite gravity imaging for studies of Earth's tectonics, including tantalising new views of the lost continents buried beneath the Antarctic ice sheets, we released a press release in November 2018 that had a huge level of international interest with over 300 media items worldwide.

This had significant impact showcasing to the general public, students and experts the latest advancements in satellite-based Earth Observation for global tectonics and lithosphere studies. It also helped significantly strengthen our case for new Antarctic lithosphere studies, specifically helping us in the case for our latest ESA international consortia application 4D Antarctica.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/science/east-antarctica-supercontinent.html
 
Description William Smith 2018 Meeting: Mineral resources at the frontier 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The 2018 William Smith Meeting of the Geological Society of London was co-organised with the help of Teal Riley from the Geology and Geophysics Team of BAS. It was an important and pioneering event that considered mineral resources in ultra-deep terrestrial environments, the deep-ocean, the polar regions and extra-terrestrial settings. It provided a platform to discuss the key global drivers for mineral extraction in frontier environments, including security of supply concerns; to assess understanding of the resource potential of these largely unexplored parts of the planet and beyond; to identify the geoscience knowledge gaps and science opportunities; hear about research and technology developments in exploration and extraction; and discuss the challenges for environmental protection and issues surrounding resource ownership, governance and the development of regulatory regimes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/wsmith18