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13 September 2019

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has joined forces with a team of UK and US scientists to help save a glacier in Antarctica.

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration is one of the biggest projects ever to be undertaken in Antarctica.

The glacier is at risk of collapsing, which could eventually force sea level rises of 80 centimetres or more.

Dr Dylan Rood from the Imperial College in London is responsible for taking measurements in the bedrock below the current ice sheet. Along with ANSTO, Dr Rood will be looking for evidence that the bedrock was ice-free in the past.

Knowledge of the ice sheet history will allow the scientists to better predict how it will behave in the current climate. They will also be able to determine this through various techniques, including detecting the presence of elements such as beryllium-10 in subglacial bedrock.

Dr Klaus Wilcken from ANSTO, said this was a pivotal time for science and the world.

“ANSTO was invited to be part of this exciting research because their Sirius 6 MV accelerator is now one of the most sensitive instruments in the world to measure the cosmogenic nuclides,” he said.

Counting the numbers of these isotopes enables scientists to calculate how long the rocks have been exposed to cosmic rays.

Dating with beryllium-10 using this method is effective from a few hundred years to about five million years.

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