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The WACSWAIN (WArm Climate Stability of West Antarctic ice sheet in the last INterglacial) project, led by Cambridge Earth Sciences' Professor Eric Wolff, aims to understand what happened to the West Antarctic ice sheet during the last interglacial period, between 115,000 and 130,000 years ago.

Fieldwork in the Antarctic - Ice core drilling camp at Fletcher Promontory, close to where the first WACSWAIN core will be collected.

Recent modelling studies predict that anthropogenic warming could lead to the loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) in the next few centuries, and a big rise in sea level.

This new project aims to discover whether the WAIS was destroyed by similar warming in the last interglacial, as modelling and indirect evidence suggest.

The five-year European Research Council (ERC) funded WACSWAIN project, led by Prof. Eric Wolff, will involve colleagues in the Department of Earth Sciences and at the British Antarctic Survey. During field seasons in the West Antarctic the team is drilling drill two new ice cores - a 650 metre-long cotre was successfully retrieved from Skytrain Ice Rise in the 2018-19 field season, and drilling will take place at Sherman Island in early 2020. These will be analysed in Cambridge to understand past retreats of the ice sheet, allowing models for ice sheet cover on the continent over the past 130,000 years to be tested.

Stay up-to-date with the project

Eric and the team will be blogging about the project, including their fieldwork in Antarctica, on the Cambridge Earth Sciences blog.

Meet the WACSWAIN team

At the University of Cambridge:

Prof. Eric Wolff

Dr Mackenzie Grieman

Dr Christoph Nehrbass-Ahles

Dr Sentia Goursaud

Dr Helene Hoffmann

Emily Doyle

Isobel Rowell

At the British Antarctic Survey:

Dr Robert Mulvaney

Dr Jack Humby

Julius Rix

and other staff in the field and working on logistics.

Funders and partners

  Royal Society


This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 742224).