Sea ice change affects Antarctic research

  • 19/10/2017
ANTARCTIC PENINSULA, ANTARCTICA - 2006/03/25: Glaciers by the sea on a cloudy day. (Photo by Jorge Fern√°ndez/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

A dramatic change in sea ice is likely to hamper a research team heading to Antarctica next week.

The team is set to spend six-weeks studying ice crystals, or platelet ice, that form between the ice shelf and the sea ice, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) says.

But the absence of sea ice this year means they may be confined to Scott Base and have to make daily trips to their research sites.

The team had planned to set up a container camp at McMurdo Sound, 50km from Scott Base.

Marine physicist Dr Natalie Robinson says that may mean they can only achieve about 60 percent of what is planned.

"It will mean a lot more extra time spent travelling, so that may compromise what we do," she said.

"Even if it looks good for travel there is still a heightened risk that a storm may break the ice up.

"Last year our local sea ice coverage was extensive, this year we're right at the other end of the spectrum."

The research involves testing how the ice crystals, formed in water colder than freezing, affect turbulence and heat transfer in the upper ocean as they grow and cluster together.

The research will provide new information that can be fed into climate models, making them better at simulating our future climate.