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Exploring Antarctic subglacial lakes with scientific probes: a formal probabilistic approach for operational risk management

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Since their discovery, Antarctic subglacial lakes have become of great interest to the science community. It is hypothesized that they may hold unique forms of biological life and that they hold detailed sedimentary records of past climate change. According to the latest inventory, a total of 387 subglacial lakes have been identified in Antarctica (Wright and Siegert, 2011). However, exploration using scientific probes has yet to be performed. We propose a generic, formal approach to manage the operational risk of deploying probes during clean access to subglacial lake exploration. A representation of the entire probe deployment process is captured in a Markov chain. The transition from one state to the next depends on several factors, including reliability of components and processes. We use fault trees to quantify the probability of failure of the complex processes that must take place to facilitate the transition from one state to another. Therefore, the formal framework consists of integrating a Markov chain, fault trees, component and subsystem reliability data and expert judgment. To illustrate its application we describe how the approach can be used to address a series of what-if scenarios, using the intended Ellsworth Subglacial Lake probe deployment as a case study.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-12-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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