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


Drilling for icy answers


This summer, nearly one thousand kilometres from Scott Base across the world’s largest ice shelf, a team of Kiwi researchers plunged to new depths.

The team used hot water to drill 600 metres though the Ross Ice Shelf, at an area known as the Siple Coast.

That’s nearly the length of two Sky Towers.

This is a major milestone for researchers working to understand how the ice shelf will respond in a warming world, and in turn how Antarctica contributes to global sea level rise.

Victoria University of Wellington Senior Lecturer, Dr Huw Horgan, says it’s incredibly exciting.

“Up until now we’ve only seen through this huge ice shelf in a few spots, and only once at the coast. It’s been like having a whole coastline to explore and only ever going to one beach.

“We’ve now got a 3D view of what’s going on, from the top of the ice, through the ice, in the ocean cavity and in the sediments beneath.

“We didn’t just drill down and take a quick look, we’ve installed an ocean mooring in the cavity which will inspect the area for years to come. We’ve taken samples and laid the ground work for numerous research seasons ahead,” he says.

The area is the grounding line of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where the ice meets the ocean and starts to float, becoming the Ross Ice Shelf.

NIWA Principal Scientist in Marine Physics, Dr Craig Stevens says it’s as far south as you can get in the ocean.

“This is where the seawater first meets the ice as it leaves the coast and the fingerprint of the ice-ocean interaction leaves a lasting impression on the entire ice shelf,” he says.

University of Otago Professor Christina Hulbe says the grounding line is an area of extreme importance for understanding how ice flows into the ocean and what happens to it once it does.

“It’s a complicated system, from snow falling at the surface to what’s happening in the mud on the seafloor.

“Step by step we are linking together different kinds of science, different ways of looking at this important and nearly unexplored part of the Earth system,” she says.

Antarctica New Zealand’s Acting Chief Scientific Advisor Dr Fiona Shanhun says this season’s sampling at the Siple Coast is an important step in developing a better understanding of how Antarctica’s ice behaved during past warm periods in Earth’s history.

“New Zealand researchers are working to detect, attribute and project changes in Antarctic systems in order to better equip New Zealanders to mitigate and adapt to future change. This research fills a critical knowledge gap,” she says.

This research was funded by NZARI and the New Zealand Antarctic Science Platform, and is a collaboration between experts from Victoria University of Wellington, NIWA, GNS Science, the University of Otago and University of Canterbury.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


What Lies Beneath: Is The Housing Market Turning?
Rising interest rates, combined with further tightening of credit availability appear to be dampening the enthusiasm of investors and first home buyers. While house values continue to rise, what lies beneath QV's latest figures is growing evidence that price pressure has shifted... More>>

R&NTU: KiwiRail strike notices withdrawn following new offer

Strike notices on KiwiRail have been withdrawn. Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson says following negotiations between the RMTU and KiwiRail, a new offer from KiwiRail will be taken back to union members for ratification... More>>

Banking: Stress Tests Show Strengthening Bank Resilience

The latest stress tests carried out by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua show strengthening resilience in the banking sector and the benefits of continuing to build capital buffers... More>>

Reserve Bank: Deputy Governor Reflects On Time At RBNZ
Central bankers must continue to look forward to guard against the unpredictable, Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand says in a speech published today. Mr Bascand joined the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Pūtea Matua in 2013 during the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis... More>>

Xero: Data Reveals ICT Expenditure Key To Small Business Sales Growth
Xero, the global small business platform, today released a new report which shows New Zealand small business ICT expenditure has increased 25 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels - more than the UK (20%) and Australia... More>>

Fonterra: Lifts Forecast Farmgate Milk Price Range And Revises Earnings Guidance At First Quarter Update

Fonterra Co-operative Group today lifted its 2021/22 forecast Farmgate Milk Price range, reported a solid start to the 2022 financial year and revised its earnings guidance... More>>

Canterbury Museum: New Research - Bald Haast's Eagle Feasted On Moa Guts

New Zealand’s extinct Haast’s Eagle (Hieraaetus moorei), the largest known eagle, gulped down viscera like a vulture and may even have been bald, new research suggests... More>>