GAMBIT: Gamburtsev Aerogeophysical Mapping Of Bedrock And Ice Targets

Antarctica is a key element in Earth’s climatic and geodynamic systems, yet on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year, we lack fundamental geologic and geophysical data from the deep interior of this vast continent. Antarctic geological processes are the driving forces for ice sheet dynamics and global environmental change that affect current and long-term large-magnitude sea level changes. Meager exposures record the 3500 million-year history of a continent that continues to be tectonically active today, although its kinematic relation to the global plate circuit and its role as substrate to the world’s major ice sheets remain in question. Specifically, preliminary ice sheet modeling studies suggest the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains are the likely location for initiation of the East Antarctic ice sheet and therefore, could be a key factor in understanding the onset of glaciation in the Paleogene and its relation to climate change. Despite the central role that Antarctica has played in shaping the present global environment, fundamental, first-order parameters such as ice volume and internal layers, bedrock elevation, lithology, structure, age, and tectonic history remain poorly known over large portions of the continent. Airborne geophysical surveys are the best and most cost-effective method to characterize broad areas of of the ice sheet and sub-ice basement.

The combined projects under the AGAP partnership are multi-national and multi-disciplinary and include aerogeophysics, traverse programs, passive seismic experiments and ice core and bedrock drilling. The surveys are targeted at understanding the tectonic origin of these enigmatic mountains to provide crucial new inputs into ice sheet and climate models and provide key site survey support for the ice and bedrock drilling efforts.