Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

New Antarctic Frontiers

It’s not quite “To infinity and beyond” but when you’re 850 km away from Scott Base in Antarctica, it sure does feel like it!

A team of New Zealand scientists will explore new frontiers in Antarctica this season when they travel across the Ross Ice Shelf to collect information that helps identify the conditions that lead to the retreat of glaciers and sea level rise.

Geophysicist Professor Gary Wilson from the University of Otago is part of a small team surveying the Siple Coast. This is where the West Antarctic Ice Sheet lifts off the seabed, starts to float and becomes the Ross Ice Shelf.

“We’ll be operating 850km southeast of Scott Base, further out from base than where we have been before, in order to reach the exact spot that will help us to determine what conditions drive ice retreat” says Professor Wilson.

Two of the five person scientific team will spend 12 days travelling overland to take supplies and heavy equipment to the site. The other team members will fly to the site by Basler aircraft. The team will spend a month camping in sub-zero temperatures to undertake a geophysical survey of the coast.

Professor Wilson’s team will use two traditional techniques to survey the area; explosives are detonated as a sound source to take a seismic survey, while a portable gravity meter will measure minute changes in the Earth’s gravitational field.

“With this information we should be able to map the sea floor, the shape of the water filled cavity between the sea floor and the base of the ice shelf and estimate the thickness of any sedimentary deposits on the sea floor,” he says. “We expect that warm water beneath the floating ice plays an important role through melting the ice from the bottom up. The sediments should record if this has happened in the past when our planet was warmer.”

Their work will help to inform two key climate change projects and build up an understanding of how a warming planet will impact Antarctica and contribute to sea level rise.

“The challenge to taking action is limited by our understanding of how change occurs and how long before the change takes effect. Answering these questions will allow us to plan for change or help determine what action to take to slow or arrest change” says Professor Wilson.

Antarctica New Zealand Acting Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr Fiona Shanhun, says understanding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is key to understanding potential sea level rise.
“We know from previous research that last time carbon dioxide levels reached a sustained level of 400 parts per million, as they have now, the Ross Ice Shelf and parts of the West Antarctic Ice sheet melted, raising sea levels by more than five metres” says Dr Shanhun.

Professor Wilson leaves for Antarctica next Wednesday 7 November.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Up 0.5% In June Quarter: Services Lead GDP Growth

“Service industries, which represent about two-thirds of the economy, were the main contributor to GDP growth in the quarter, rising 0.7 percent off the back of a subdued result in the March 2019 quarter.” More>>

ALSO:

Pickers: Letter To Immigration Minister From Early Harvesting Growers

A group of horticultural growers are frustrated by many months of inaction by the Minister who has failed to announce additional immigrant workers from overseas will be allowed into New Zealand to assist with harvesting early stage crops such as asparagus and strawberries. More>>

ALSO:

Non-Giant Fossil Disoveries: Scientists Discover One Of World’s Oldest Bird Species

At 62 million-years-old, the newly-discovered Protodontopteryx ruthae, is one of the oldest named bird species in the world. It lived in New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs died out. More>>

Rural Employers Keen, Migrants Iffy: Employment Visa Changes Announced

“We are committed to ensuring that businesses are able to get the workers they need to fill critical skills shortages, while encouraging employers and regions to work together on long term workforce planning including supporting New Zealanders with the training they need to fill the gaps,” says Iain Lees-Galloway. More>>

ALSO:

Marsden Pipeline Rupture: Report Calls For Supply Improvements, Backs Digger Blame

The report makes several recommendations on how the sector can better prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from an incident. In particular, we consider it essential that government and industry work together to put in place and regularly practise sector-wide response plans, to improve the response to any future incident… More>>

ALSO: