French-Australian collaboration on Antarctic Climate Science

Dr Ghislain Picard

Dr Petra Heil



The IEA/PICS FAACS (French-Australian collaboration on Antartic Climate Science) is managed by Dr Ghislain Picard in collaboration with Dr Petra Heil.This collaboration is the follow-up of long-term collaborative research undertaken by two CNRS institutes:  Institut des Geosciences de l’Environnement (IGE, Grenoble)  and CEA-CNRS-UVSQ Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE, Paris) in France, and the Australian Antarctic Division in Australia (Kingston, Tasmania).

The goal is to support existing activities and foster new collaboration in the following domains :
1) the oldest ice challenge which aims at locating old ice in Antarctica with an age of up to 1.5 Millions year;
2) the characterization and prediction of present and future climate with focus on surface mass balance of the glacial Antarctic ice sheet, precipitation origins and snow physics;
3) modelling and validation of sea-ice/snow/ice-shelf/ocean interactions.


The Australian and French Antarctic programs share a large geographical sector of Antarctica, with stations spanning from 62° to 140°E and very important drilling sites (Dome C, Law Dome, Aurora Basin North) on the Antarctic ice sheet. Bilateral cooperation started as early as 1957 during the International Geophysical Year, with the over-wintering of scientists (C Lorius, R Schlich), followed by a series of projects on the geochemistry of heavy metals In the 90s.The deeper South Summit drilling (Morgan et al. 2002 with M Delmotte and J Chappelaz) later provided important timing information on deglaciation events. In recent years, active collaboration with the Antarctic Climate & Environment Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC, equivalent to “Labex” in France. ACE CRC ended 30 June 2019. A new institute took its place on 01 Jul 2019 (funded for 10 years): Australian Antarctic Programme Partnership [AAPP]) took place. Recent joint research projects include the Aurora Basin North (ABN) traverse and ice core drilling in 2013, with major co-investments in logistics and science by both nations. In 2015-2016, G Picard (French P.I. of this proposal) was hosted at ACE CRC to conduct numerical modeling of snow on sea-ice in the Southern Ocean with P Heil (Australian P.I. of this proposal), opening a new theme of collaboration.

The motivation for this IEA/PICs  project is to foster new exchanges, especially involving young scientists and students from both nations by addressing prominent questions in the domain of the Antarctic climate – past, present and future – including the continental and marine cryospheric components, with three overlapping challenges : 1) Oldest Ice, 2) present and future climate and 3) sea ice.

1) Oldest Ice.
The project will contribute to The Oldest Ice project, i.e. an international community effort to search for the oldest ice with preserved chronology in Antarctica in order to establish the longest possible climatology. This task will require the search for an optimal site, the development of high-resolution analytical tools and innovative drilling technologies.

2) Recent and future climate on the Antarctic continent.
The contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to sea-level rise is a major issue. Snow accumulation , ice sheet dynamics and surface mass balance are studied in our institutes through chemical and isotopic analysis of ice core together with radar, remote sensing and continuous meteorological measurements.

3) Sea ice.
The role of changing sea ice on water-mass modification and 3D ocean circulation, as well as interaction between sea ice and ice shelves, remains largely unknown and are the focus here.


Here, we propose research on several aspects of the Antarctic sea-ice system, including vertical sea-ice/snow processes, surface ponds, and impacts of ice-shelf melt on sea ice and vice versa. The implementation of the IEA/PICS include:

  • exchanges of staff for short and long stay between both countries,
  • exchanges of students (PhD, Master),
  • seminar and short visit in Hobart during the rotation of expeditioners to/from Antarctic.
  • an annual meeting by video-conference.
  • shipping of ice samples and instrumentation.

institutions and laboratories involved

• Dr Ghislain Picard, CNRS – UMR5001 Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement
• CEA-CNRS-UVSQ UMR8212 Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement

Dr Petra Heil (Australian Antarctic Division)