Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Antarctica AEM

Revealing Subsurface Water in Coastal Antarctica

ANTAEM aims at providing a better understanding of the subsurface structure and regional groundwater systems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica.

By mapping the subsurface using electromagnetic methods, we are able to produce images of the electrical  properties of the subsurface. These images provide powerful insights into hydrological connectivity around the coastal margins, the depth/extent of permafrost, and subglacial hydrogeology – as well as an opportunity to investigate exotic ecosystems that exist in extreme cold/low-oxygen environments beneath glaciers.

Our work in ANTAEM consisted of two field campaigns. The first was conducted in 2017 and involved groundbased transient electromagnetic methods. In this campaign we managed to image to greater depths than ever previously possible. The groundbased work also served as scouting measurements to guide later aerial surveys. In 2018 a follow-up airborne transient electromagnetic survey was conducted, where nearly 3500 kms of the subsurface were imaged. Results of the 2018 survey indicate the existence of subglacial unfrozen brines in far greater abundance and spatial coverage than previously anticipated.

ANTAEM is an international project involving partners from the University of California – Santa Cruz, Louisiana State University, University of Tennesee, Dartmouth College, and the University of Wisconsin.

Some of the findings from the surveys has been published in high-ranking scientific journals. The papers can be downloaded from the documents section. 



  • University of California
  • Louisiana State University
  • The University of Tennessee
  • Dartmouth College
  • HGG, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University

Foley et al., 2019, Evidence of concentrated submarine groundwater discharge in East Antarc-tica from helicopter borne electrical resistivity measurements: Hydrology, 6 (2), 54.

Foley et al., 2019, Mapping geothermal heat flux using permafrost thickness constrainedby airborne electromagnetic surveys on a flank of an active Antarctic volcano: ExplorationGeophysics, 51, 84-93.

Blatter et al., 2018, Trans-Dimensional Bayesian Inversion of Airborne Transient EM Data From Taylor Glacier, Antarctica, Geophysical Journal International, 2018, 214,1919–1936. pdf

Foley et al., 2016, Helicopter-borne transient electromagnetics in high-latitude environments: An application in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, Geophysics, 81, 1. pdf

Mikucki et al., 2015, Deep groundwater and potential subsurface habitats beneath an Antarctic dry valley, Nature Communications, 6. pdf

Dugan et al., 2014, Subsurface imaging reveals a confined aquifer beneath an ice-sealed Antarctic lake, Geophysical Research Letters, 42,1-8. pdf