2 Mar 2015

$500,000 to research Antarctic ice warming

12:39 pm on 2 March 2015

A major research project will try and figure out what warming weather means for Antarctic ice, and what effect it will have on New Zealand's climate.

The research vessel Tangaroa has entered Antarctic waters this week.

Photo: Dave Allen / NIWA

The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute has announced $500,000 in funding for six separate projects looking into the issue.

The projects will involve reconstructing the history of the Ross Ice Shelf over the past 26,000 years.

Director of the NZARI Professor Gary Wilson said the research was vital, as Antarctica was once deemed one of the most stable parts of the planet but was now showing real signs of change.

The research focused on understanding if ocean warming was affecting the rate at which ice was melting and if the melting ice was in turn refreezing the ocean.

They would also look at the what changes to Antarctic ice sheets meant for the planet.

Professor Wilson said that would mean better understanding of the effects on New Zealand's climate and sea levels.

Four local universities and two Crown Research Institutes will team up with scientists from Australia, Denmark, Korea, United States and the United Kingdom.

Some of the field work in Antarctica will begin over the 2015/2016 summer.

Preliminary results from the research are expected at the end of 2017.

The projects

  • Antarctic influences on New Zealand climate during an important episode of cooling at the close of the last ice age.
  • Investigating Antarctic ice sheet response to past unexpected Southern Ocean warming
  • Interfacing human impact assessment and social valuation of climate sensitive landforms in the Ross Sea Region
  • Supercooled ice shelf cavity water and the influence on sea ice growth
  • Constraining Antarctica's contribution to past global sea level rise in Northern Victoria Land and the Western Ross Sea
  • Reconstructing the history of the Ross Ice Shelf since the Last Glacial Maximum (the last period of vast ice sheets, about 26,500 years ago)