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Department of Earth Sciences


About the WACSWAIN Project

The WArm Climate Stability of West Antarctic ice sheet in the last INterglacial (WACSWAIN) 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.

The drilling camp at Skytrain Ice Rise, Antarctica.

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 cause a large rise in sea level. This project aims to discover whether the WAIS was destroyed by similar warming in the last interglacial, as both modelling and indirect evidence suggest.

The five-year European Research Council (ERC) funded WACSWAIN project, led by Prof. Eric Wolff, involves colleagues in the Department of Earth Sciences and at the British Antarctic Survey. During field seasons in the West Antarctic, the team has drilled two new ice cores—a 650-metre-long core was successfully retrieved from Skytrain Ice Rise in the 2018–19 field season, and a rapid access drill was used to retrieve ice chips to a depth of 322 metres at Sherman Island in early 2020. These cores are being 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 and as analysis progresses, on the Cambridge Earth Sciences blog.

Meet the WACSWAIN Team

At the University of Cambridge:

At the British Antarctic Survey:

and other staff in the field and working on logistics.

Former members of the team:

Publications from the project:

Partners and Project Funding

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).


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