A new video telling about the SRP PAIS is available

A new video telling about the SRP PAIS is available

29 March 2021

A new video telling about the SRP PAIS is available from here (9:20 minutes long version) and here (2:20 minutes long version) and...

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04 April 2020

      Co-PI Programme Call, open from 21stNovember 2019 onwards. This running call will be open for the continuous submission of propo...

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PAIS: The Sound of a Community Effort

“Every contribution matters.” Anybody who ever played in a sport team probably heard this sentence at some point. Actually, this is completely true also as far as science is concerned. Whereas in the collective imagination science is about big discoveries made by a single genius, the truth is that great science is made little by little, step by step. Science is a community effort in which every contribution matters. And that is the concept from which this video was born. 


PAIS publication acknowledgement:

Where PAIS activities have contributed to thinking or ideas behind a research publication it is appropriate to acknowledge SCAR PAIS, such as  “This research is a contribution to the SCAR PAIS program”. Please notify us of the paper by emailing and

SCAR Scientific Research Programme PAIS

The SCAR Scientific Research Programme PAIS (Past Antarctic Ice Sheet dynamics) aims to improve understanding of the sensitivity of East, West, and Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheets to a broad range of climatic and oceanic conditions.

PAIS builds on the success of SCAR-ACE (Antarctic Climate Evolution), but with a new focus on the ice sheet rather than palaeoclimate reconstructions. Study intervals span a range of timescales, including past "greenhouse" climates warmer than today, and times of more recent warming and ice sheet retreat during glacial terminations.

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Models evaluate the impact of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and of sea ice reduction on the isotopic composition of precipitation on the East Antarctic Plateau, compared to isotopic records from the last Interglacial period.

Nature Communications by Holloway et al.

The last interglacial period, which spans from 130 000 to 115 000 years ago, was characterised by a climate warmer than today and a global sea level 6 to 9 meters higher than today. Such a sea level rise requires an important amount of ice loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet. In this study, Holloway et al. evaluate the impact of a West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse and of a major sea ice retreat on the isotopic composition of precipitation in Antarctica using climate model experiments which include water isotopes. They compare the simulation results with isotopic composition from ice cores from East Antarctica at Dronning Maud Land, Dome F, Vostok and Dome C, where the records extend throughout the last interglacial period and in particular at the Antarctic isotope peak which occurred 128 000 years ago.

The models indicate that a complete loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (and when the resulting meltwater is added to the Southern ocean) results in a decrease of the isotopic composition of precipitation at all ice core locations, notably due to changes in atmospheric circulation, the seasonality of precipitation and the meltwater that enters the Southern Ocean from the melted ice sheet. This is not observed in ice core records 128 000 years ago, as illustrated in Fig. 1. A retreat of winter sea ice area of around 65% compared to the pre-industrial period on the other hand, predicts both the magnitude and the spatial pattern of the 128 000 isotope peak. Note that these results do not dismiss the hypothesis of a collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, but simply postpone the collapse to later during the interglacial period.

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Fig 1: Spatial pattern obtained for isotopic composition and sea ice extent 128 000 years ago with the simulation: a) precipitation weighted anomalies relative to pre-industrial with the removal of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and addition of the meltwater to the Southern Ocean, b) precipitation weighted anomalies for a 65% winter sea ice retreat relative to pre-industrial and, c) September sea ice concentration fractionation corresponding the results presented in b); the blue contour presents the 1978-2013 satellite observations.

Sea ice takes an important role in the climate system as sea ice cover increases the surface albedo and insulates the ocean from heat loss, wind stress and gaseous exchanges with the atmosphere. Still, models fail to simulate the recent sea ice extent in Antarctica from satellite observations. Using the sea ice retreat of 128 000 years ago as a test to validate sea ice models could help with future predictions of Southern hemisphere sea ice change in the context of climate change.

Holloway, M. D. et al. Antarctic last interglacial isotope peak in response to sea ice retreat not ice-sheet collapse. Nature communications 7 (2016).

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