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AMICS project

Antarctica phase V (2000-2005)

AMICS - Antarctic ice-sheet dynamics and climatic change: modelling and ice composition studies


Over the last decades, a number of deep ice-core drillings were carried out in Antarctica, such as Vostok, Dome Fuji and more recently Dome
Concordia. Analysis of these cores provides the scientific community with a continuous record of ice composition, which makes it possible to reconstruct climate and its variability over more than 500,000 years back in time (and possible to 800,000 years). These data are necessary to understand the variability and stability of climate (both from the past as for the future) and the associated environmental change. A central role is played by the Antarctic ice sheet and its relation with sea level.

Project description

The main objective of AMICS (Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics and Climatic Change: Modelling and Ice Composition Studies) network proposal is to contribute to the international research effort leading to an improved understanding of the dynamic behaviour of the Antarctic ice sheet resulting from climatic change and its composition. More specifically it aims at a better knowledge of the internal dynamics of the Antarctic ice sheet and to a better assessment of the interactions of the ice sheet with its boundary conditions. The major components of this interdisciplinary research objective are modelling and ice composition studies.

The aim of this research network is to clarify the dynamic interactions between the ice sheet and its boundary conditions, such as the substratum, based on analysis of ice from the basal part of the Antarctic ice sheet and ice sheet modelling. Results from the analyses will put constraints on the basal boundary conditions of the numerical model and will make validation of the model possible with regard to the melting and refreezing processes at the base. Further constraints come from radio-echo sounding (RES) surveys and SAR interferometric applications. For this purpose, the high-resolution numerical model of complex ice flow will be adapted to three-dimensions and refined. With the numerical model we will translate the results of the ice composition analyses into physical processes, hence providing the scientific community with a model tool of complex basal interaction. As basal processes play an important role in the onset of fast-flowing areas such as ice streams, the role of ice streams, outlet glaciers and ice shelves in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet and their influence on the variability of the ice sheet with changing climate will be investigated.

Link with international programmes
Both teams are involved in the EPICA project (European Project on Ice Coring in Antarctica, ESF) and are the only Belgian teams that carry out field work and co-operative research on the interior ice sheet of Antarctica. There is a close collaboration with the Vostok Project, the National Institute of Polar Research (Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition), and the New Zealand Antarctic Project, besides the collaboration with a large number of foreign scientific research institutes and groups.

Expected results and/or products
We expect to obtain analytical results from basal ice of Antarctic deep drillings, which will allow investigating the basal ice and allow specifying the dynamical behaviour of the ice sheet during past and future climatic changes, providing constraints to modellers.
It is envisaged that the research on the basal mechanics as well as the numerical improvement of the models will add significant knowledge to the results already obtained in this field.
Results of this research will be circulated through publications in high-ranking international scientific journals (peer reviewed). They will be represented at international symposia and workshops, with emphasis on those workshops dedicated to Antarctic glaciology. A website is started to provide the community with the project results:

Complementary resources about this scientific project


The two research teams of this network are the only ones in Belgium that carry out both field work and research regarding the Antarctic inland ice sheet. Both are involved in the ongoing EPICA project (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica). The VUB team has a long-standing experience in modelling of ice sheets and glaciers and model development for studying ice dynamics. The ULB team is specialised in the study of ice composition, as a tool for understanding the formation and deformation of basal ice retrieved either from major deep ice-core drillings or from natural outcroppings in both Greenland and Antarctica.

Involved research groups

Foreign partners

Contact information

Coordinator: Hugo Decleir, Frank Pattyn and Filip Huybrechts
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Vakgroep Geografie
Pleinlaan 2
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 629 33 84
Fax: +32 (0)2 629 33 78

Partner 2: Roland Souchez and Réginald Lorrain
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l’Environnement (DSTE) - Unité de Glaciologie Polaire CP 160/03
50, avenue F.D. Roosevelt
B-1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0)2 650 22 27
Fax: +32 (0)2 650 22 26


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