AG-342 The Marine Cryosphere and its Cenozoic History (10 ECTS)

ID:

AG-342

CREDITS:

10 ECTS

APPLICATION DEADLINE:

October 15, 2022

START DATE:

April 17, 2023

END DATE:

May 30, 2023

COURSE PERIOD:

Spring semester (April–May), every second year.

AG-342/842 excursion to Tunabreen. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, NOK 400–1000 (2–5 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students (AG-342/842 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a master programme in Earth sciences. Fundamentals of geology especially within sedimentology, corresponding to AG-209, AG-210 or AG-211, or equivalent.

Academic content

The term marine cryosphere is used to collectively describe frozen water within the marine portion of the Earth’s surface. This incorporates marine based ice sheets including ice shelves and ice streams, icebergs, sea ice, and subsea permafrost.

The marine cryosphere has played a key role during several time periods of the Earth’s geological history and is a critical component in studies of climate change. In this course, the students will learn about the evolution of the marine cryosphere during the Cenozoic when the Earth experienced a long term palaeoclimatic change from the warm greenhouse to the colder icehouse world. Through the lectures, fieldwork, lab exercises and individual project work, the students will be introduced to the marine cryosphere and its components. Specific emphasis is placed on describing and discussing available methods to study the geological history of the marine cryosphere.

The course embraces the marine environment from shallow shelves to the deep ocean. Arctic and Antarctic analogies and differences with respect to the Cenozoic history of the marine cryosphere will be discussed.

The main topics of the course are:

  • General physical characteristics of the marine cryosphere: marine based ice sheets, icebergs, sea ice and subsea permafrost
  • Dynamics of marine based ice sheets and sea ice
  • Marine glaciogenic landforms: mapping and interpretation
  • Sea ice and glacial sediment proxies: from biomarkers to ice rafted debris
  • Past and present drift patterns of sea ice and icebergs: implications for interpretation of palaeo-proxies
  • The Cenozoic history of the marine cryosphere
  • Ice sheet modelling: limitations and possibilities to simulate the marine components
  • The cryosphere’s interaction with the marine environment and climate

Geological/geophysical data, providing information on the spatial extent and dynamics of the Svalbard-Barents ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum, are compared with ice sheet modelling results in the laboratory computer exercises. This will give the students a direct insight into the present limitations and possibilities to simulate the key components of marine based ice sheets; ice streams and ice shelves.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:

Knowledge

  • knowledge about the components of the marine cryosphere, their physical characteristics, and their interaction with the marine environment and climate throughout the Cenozoic.
  • a general understanding of the main survey methods and tools applied to study the marine cryosphere.
  • knowledge of the main palaeo proxies used to study the marine cryosphere’s Cenozoic history.
  • understanding of capabilities and limitations of numerical ice sheet models.

Skills

  • practical skills on analysis of records that provide information on the marine cryosphere, such as sediment incorporated in sea ice.
  • practical skills from assisting in data acquisition during fieldwork.
  • analytical skills to determine limitations and possibilities in modelling studies of marine ice sheets including ice shelves and ice streams.

General competences

  • basic experience in Arctic fieldwork planning and execution.
  • independent as well as team-work skills.
  • independent research writing skills on given topic. Presentation skills, written and oral.

Learning activities

The course extends over ca 5 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AG-842.

Prior to the course, as a pre-course assignment, the students are asked to prepare a short talk about their master projects specifying its relevance to the content of the course and present it in a seminar at the beginning of the course.

Through the lectures, fieldwork, lab exercises and individual project work, the students will be introduced to the marine cryosphere and its components. Specific emphasis is placed on describing and discussing available methods to study the geological history of the marine cryosphere.

The course includes 2-5 days fieldwork based on the sea ice in front of one of Svalbard’s tidewater glaciers. The fieldwork will give students first-hand experience of geophysical, geological and oceanographic data collection and sampling procedures.

In a seminar towards the end of the course the students will present the results of their course projects in a 10–15 min. oral presentation to the class for discussion.

Summary

  • Total lecture hours, seminars and practical exercises: Ca. 50 hours.
  • Fieldwork: 2–5 days.

Compulsory learning activities

All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.

  • Fieldwork/cruise
  • Two seminars
  • Two oral presentations (one at each seminar)

Assessment

MethodDuration
Percentage of final grade
Written exam4 hours100%

Student life

AG-342/842 excursion. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.
AG-342/842 excursion. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.
AG-342/842 excursion to Tunabreen. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.
AG-342/842 excursion to Tunabreen. Photo: Riko Noormets/UNIS.