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Antarctic Ice Formation Named After San Diego Researcher

Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker in this undated photo.

A San Diego researcher is being honored by having an ice formation in Antarctica named after her.

Helen Amanda Fricker is a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has spent much of her academic career trying to understand what is happening to the ice in Antarctica.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

Fricker helped pioneer the use of satellite data to track how water moves beneath the Antarctic ice and that work has expanded knowledge of the continent’s rapid loss of ice.

Now, an ice formation on the continent’s peninsula is named after her.

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The Fricker Ice Piedmont is an amalgam of ice from several different glaciers and, she says, on the map it seems rather small.

“If you think about it in terms of the size like a Channel Island,” Fricker said. “I think it’s actually about the size of the whole west end of Catalina from the Isthmus to the west, so I think it’s actually pretty substantial. It just that Antarctica is huge.”

Fricker hopes to visit when the COVID-19 restrictions are finally lifted but she concedes the location is difficult to get to.

It is located beside rough seas.

Fricker also acknowledged that the ice formation may melt as the climate warms.

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The honor comes from the United Kingdom Antarctic place names committee which named 28 locations in honor of modern explorers.

“Explorers from the heroic age were more about getting there to kind of claim it and put a flag on it. Not necessarily to understand the continent and what it means scientifically,” Fricker said. “But I think almost everyone on this list had an interest in learning about Antarctica and what its role was in the climate system.”

Photo credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Location of the newly named Fricker Ice Piedmont in Antarctica in this undated photo.

The list of honorees includes two researchers, Professor Seymour Laxon and Doctor Katherine Giles, who served as academic advisors to Fricker.

The pair got the honor posthumously.

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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