Funding: EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN
Investigators: Dr Paul Dunlop, Dr Sara Benetti, Dr Kevin Schiele
Partners: Ulster University, University of Bergen, Durham University, University of Tromso, University Centre in Svalbard, Scottish Association for Marine Sciences, Denmark and Greenland Geological Survey, North Energy, Volcanic Basin Petroleum Research, Statoil
Project website: http://www.glanam.org
The North Atlantic continental margins extend from the Arctic to the southwest of Ireland in water depths below sea level ranging from around 100 m close to shore to 350 m at the shelf edge. During the Ice Ages, large ice sheets in Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard, Norway, Britain and Ireland expanded offshore into the Atlantic and onto the continental shelf creating glacial landforms and delivering huge amounts of sediment to the seafloor that can be used to investigate their growth and decay through time.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a large research effort, involving both industry and academia, which has contributed to our current understanding of the history of these ice sheets and their influence on glaciated North Atlantic margins. However, despite these advances, major gaps remain in our understanding. For example the full extent and retreat patterns of the ice sheets surrounding the North Atlantic remains poorly defined for many areas, yet this needs to be properly investigated if we are to understand the times in Earth’s history when it was cold enough for ice sheets to form and then warm enough for them to melt again.
The glaciated North Atlantic margins are therefore key locations for helping us better understand the climate history of our planet and the processes involved in driving climate change. The Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) which rests 1 km below sea level, is similar to the past ice sheets of the North Atlantic as it has also expanded onto its continental shelf. Understanding the glacial history of the North Atlantic margins provides us with a great opportunity to better understand how marine ice sheets such as the WAIS might respond to ocean warming.
This is really important given that the WAIS has the potential to raise sea levels by over 3 m if it collapses and would have huge societal implications for coastal communities across the globe.
The North Atlantic margins are also important for future energy supplies and contain significant oil and gas reserves that are important for industry and European economies. Understanding the nature of the continental margin and its glacial sedimentary history is a fundamental pre-requisite for successful hydrocarbon exploration, as many potential reserves remain buried beneath glacial sediments.
Understanding the sedimentary history of the region is central to developing and testing models of reservoir depth and for locating and managing new reserves. In addition, glacial sediments on the shelf have caused underwater landslides in the past resulting in Tsunamis in the North Atlantic. Since sedimentary sequences on the shelf could potentially slip again it is important to investigate whether they still represent a threat to coastal communities in the North Atlantic.
Collectively, these knowledge gaps and the requirements of industry represent a major challenge that requires the next generation of European researchers to be equipped with the range of appropriate skills, expertise and knowledge at the interface of both academia, applied research and commercial interests.
The GLANAM Initial Training Network was designed specifically to address this shortcoming through the establishment of a multidisciplinary network, which trained young researchers in skills relevant to academia and industry. GLANAM consisted of 10 research partners from Norway, UK and Denmark and including 6 University research teams, 2 industrial full partners and 2 industrial associate partners.
The overarching scientific goal of the GLANAM network was to determine the controls on the development in time and space of glaciated continental margins and employed 15 early career researchers to undertake co-ordinated PhD or post-doctoral research programmes to address five key objectives:
- To determine the role of different glacial/non-glacial sedimentary processes in shaping the glaciated North Atlantic margins
- To contribute to the understanding of the extent, timing and rates of decay of marine-based ice sheets.
- To contribute to the understanding of the influence the ice ages have imposed on the hydrocarbon systems on the glaciated North Atlantic margin including sedimentation rates/location of depo-centres, subsidence/tilting and direct ice loading through multiple glaciations.
- To determine the influence of climate change and sedimentary processes on the fluid flow (and gas hydrate) systems on the glaciated North Atlantic margin.
- To identify the controlling factors and the role of submarine mass movements (with resulting tsunamis) on the glaciated North Atlantic margin.
GLANAM was funded by the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN programme.
You can read more details on the project, the early career researchers their projects and the associated publications at http://www.glanam.org