University of Canterbury
Climate change and commercial fishing are two potential drivers of change in the Ross Sea, but our ability to predict or manage impacts is limited by lack of information.
Antarctic top predators integrate complex changes in the physical and biological conditions affecting their food resources, which makes them ideal sentinels for the state of the Ross Sea ecosystem. We will study the food requirements of killer whales, Weddell seals and Adélie penguins to provide reference points for detecting future change and to identify what food resources are critical to these predators to allow responsible environmental stewardship of the Ross Sea.
University of Otago
The goal of this project is to test whether sea ice microbial communities are an important source of organic material supporting marine communities in the Ross Sea, including important prey for seals and penguins.
We will use bulk and compound specific isotopic composition of organic matter sources to trace their contribution to consumers across spatial gradients corresponding to different sea ice extent and persistence. This will be extended to a systems level modelling approach to understand organic matter flux in the Ross Sea marine community.
The project addresses an important unknown for Antarctic communities: the connectivity between primary production within sea ice and availability of organic material for benthic consumers. It will provide new understanding of the role of sea ice for ecosystem functioning in Antarctica.
University of Otago
Simultaneous and co-incident surveys of sea ice from the air, on the ground and from the ocean, near parallel to satellite overflights.
Objectives: 1 - Helicopter survey of sea ice thickness and surface properties; 2 - On-ice survey of snow, ice thickness & oceanography on subset of helicopter grid; 3 - AUV at ice-water interface coincident with helicopter or EM31; 4 - Surveying of tidal movement.
The important issue is why has Antarctic sea ice extent in the Ross Sea becomes greater in the past decade when global climate models say that it should be decreasing?
We believe (along with others) that part of the discrepancy is that land ice that is floating on the ocean (called an ice shelf) contributes and the effect of ice shelves on the ocean is not a part of global models. In natural circumstances there is melting at the deep part of ice shelves and then refreezing at shallower depths and under sea ice. In fact under sea ice near an ice shelf, there may be many meters of loose ice crystals that have originated from beneath the ice shelf. Over the past decade our own observations and models have shown that this source can make a 20% increase in sea ice thickness.
But here there is another problem. While sea ice area can be measured from satellite, there is no direct means to obtain sea ice thickness from satellite. Instead a satellite altimeter measures how far sea ice floats above sea level. Then you need to guess snow thickness and density and sea ice density and worry about whether or not there are ice crystals underneath the sea ice. So there is a big international effort to make sea ice thickness observations beneath the satellite altimeters that overfly Antarctic sea ice. Our project is a part of this effort.
The only technique that makes direct, airborne sea ice thickness measurements is electromagnetic induction. Our Canadian colleague is the guru of these measurements and will be joining us for the third time at Scott Base with his latest helicopter electromagnetic induction device - the HEM bird. The really great thing about this device is that it not only selects sea ice thickness but can also detect the loose crystals, the refrozen ice shelf melt, beneath the sea ice.
So in Nov 2013 we will fly the HEM bird over the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to measure sea ice thickness. In addition we will be on the sea ice to measure snow and ice thickness, density and the thickness of the layer of loose crystals. The key task is to follow the lines of the satellite so all measurements can be tied together. The project is also coordinated with the new technology in the form of a snow radar from the University of Kansas that will be flown from light aircraft. This will give us snow thickness over a large area. The Kiwi team we will deploy radar reflectors on the sea ice so that the Kansas team can test their technology. Most exciting too is that we will have some coordination with NASA who will overfly satellite tracks also.
Landcare Research Ltd
The research develops an environmental classification for terrestrial ecosystems of Ross Sea region. The classification includes associated data and models and is underpinned by new knowledge on soil distribution, climate and microbial diversity and/or abundance. Its delivery, via a one-stop web portal will produce a classification that is dynamic, widely accessible, and functional. We provide new data on these ecosystems by:
University of Canterbury
This programme's goal is to determine how climate-driven hydrological change controls the biological structure and biodiversity values of Antarctica's inland aquatic ecosystems by quantifying and modelling the climate-hydrology-biodiversity linkages. We will apply new molecular, biological process and environmental modeling techniques in the field and in laboratory experiments to identify key biodiversity and ecosystem components and values.
Our programme takes a multi-disciplinary approach to assess the sensitivity of inland aquatic habitats to incremental (eg climatic) and discontinuous (eg invasive species) change. This research will inform environmental management of Antarctic systems of how things are likely to change, which environments are likely to be most sensitive to change, and which areas need to be prioritised for protection.
We will identify and categorise the range of aquatic ecosystems within the Ross Sea sector and elucidate the mechanisms by which they are connected, their resilience to environmental change and their vulnerability to invasive organisms. In 2013-14 we focus on two types of water body; (a) glacially-associated, ice-based meltwaters that are some of the most ubiquitous and diverse aquatic habitats in Antarctica, for which there is little comprehensive biological information; and (b) rock-based pond ecosystems close to and remote from Scott Base that are important biodiversity elements in continental Antarctic landscapes.
Biological and chemical characteristics in water samples from ponds and Lake Wilson in the Darwin Glacier area
The changes in the physical, chemical and biological processes in melt water ponds during the late season freeze processes into the polar winter at Bratina Island
The change in metabolism, and chemical and physical dynamics, after a transition from light to dark conditions, of melt water ponds on the McMurdo Ice Shelf
The rates of benthic photosynthesis of microbial mats at low irradiances in Lake Hoare and Lake Fryxell, Taylor Valley
The factors controlling planktonic primary and secondary production in 22 meltwater ponds varying in chemical conditions, and in layers of stratified ponds
Victoria University of Wellington
The sea ice is host to a diverse community of algae, bacteria and protists that are likely to be sensitive indicators of changing climatic conditions. These organisms grow between the ice crystals of the sea ice producing a large biomass particularly on the bottom of the ice. They are ultimately the primary food source for all organisms in ice covered areas of the Southern Ocean, much like the grasslands in our farms in NZ.
The research will develop baseline long-term data on their biodiversity, abundances and community structure, using a range of traditional and modern techniques including microscopic identifications, DNA fingerprints, high throughput sequencing etc, over broard spatial and temporal scales.
Together with international collaborators, we will also establish the responses of the sea ice microbial community to climate-induced environmental changes such as ocean acidification using eco-physiological methods we have developed over more than 20 years of Antarctic research.
University of Waikato
This research will deliver a bio geographical characterisation for the entire Ross Sea region, together with a predictive model for the effects of climate change. We will achieve this by greatly extending and upgrading our existing model that links the biodiversity with landscape and environmental features.
We plan to extend its coverage to include biota in all ice-free regions of the Ross Sea region and increase its prediction capability by importing detailed analyses of the physical, chemical and biological drivers responsible for the biodiversity combined with a sensitivity analysis of the model using detailed survey and ecophysiological studies of biodiversity hotspots. This will allow us to test various climate change scenarios and to determine the impacts and risks of changing global climate.
GIS analysis, biological samples (soil microorganism, invertebrate and plant), automatic weather station data and vegetation and invertebrate surveys to determine the terrestrial biocomplexity of the McMurdo Dry Valleys
Landcare Research Ltd
What we do: This collaborative project (joint NZ/US) addresses the theoretical question "What mechanisms control population size and colony distribution of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae)?". The project distinguishes the relative importance of key resources (nesting space and food) that constrain growth of colonies, and examine behavioural (immigration/emigration and breeding effort/success) mechanisms that may influence colony size.
Why we do it: The results of this study help us to understand the impact of climate change and human impacts (fisheries, tourism, pollution) on the Antarctic marine ecosystem.
Some things we've found out: Due to the heavy sea ice conditions that have existed in the McMurdo Sound area since 1999 and the presence of large icebergs, Cape Bird penguins trying to raise chicks have had a hard time. They've had to walk further to get to their chicks, and the chicks have been lighter and fewer than pre-1999 figures. At the more northerly Cape Hallett colony where 'normal' sea sea conditions prevail, the average chick weight was greater than at Cape Bird.
Anthopogenic impacts in Antarctica are increasing and a good understanding of marine ecosystem function is needed to inform decisions on environmental management and protection.
With a focus on coastal benthic (seafloor) communities and the environmental conditions that structure them, the major goal of this research is to advance knowledge of coastal benthic ecosystem structure and function, spatial variance and response to environmental stress, and thus improve management of the Ross Sea region.
Diversity of marine benthic communities at Granite Harbour, the effect of ocean acidification on the Antarctic gooeyduc Laternula elliptica and the effect of pulsed primary food source on the benthic community
University of Otago
What we do: We are investigating the impact of UV-R on the planktonic larval stage of Sterechinus neumayeri, a species of sea urchin that is found throughout Antarctic shallow waters. Operating from Scott Base, our research involves diving under the sea ice to deploy optical instruments that measure the amount of UV-R penetrating the sea ice and water column. At the same time, we are rearing Sterechinus larvae in the laboratory for later transplantation under the ice on specially designed racks suspended at different depths. The racks have various UV-filters that allow us to quantify any harmful effects of UV-R under the sea ice. Larvae are also exposed to artificial UV-R in the laboratory to quantify specific effects of UV on development.
Why we do it: This research is challenging the assumption that marine life in Antarctica waters is protected from UV-R by the annual sea ice that is 1-2 m thick and can cover 20 000 000 km2 of the Southern Ocean. While scientists thought that UV-R would penetrate the ice they did not expect it to be of high enough intensity to be damaging to marine life.
Some things we've found out so far: Initial results strongly indicate that this assumption is incorrect, and larval stages of Antarctic marine species might be impacted. This is particularly important given the increase in UV-R over the Antarctic continent when the ozone hole is present, and its likely continuation for the next 25 years. The spring ozone hole over Antarctica results in an increase in the more biologically damaging UV-radiation called UV-B, which is also responsible for skin cancer in humans.
Early findings show that the more damaging wavelengths such as UV-B do penetrate the sea ice at intensities great enough to cause detrimental effects on the larval stages. The findings may indicate that the increase in UV-R over the Antarctic continent and surrounding oceans may have significant effects on marine life. If the delicate larval stages of sea urchins and other marine species are damaged, the lifecycle of many Antarctic species may be interrupted, with long-term impacts on the Antarctic marine ecosystem.
A sea level recorder and barometer was installed at Scott Base in January 2001 initially to support oceanographic and hazards research (including tsunami) and to support hydrographic surveying. Sea level and atmospheric pressure and temperature are recorded at 5-minute intervals and stored every 24 hours. The tide gauge data is archived by NIWA. Data are retrieved daily by NIWA and processed for storm surge before being uploaded to a web site. Each year the rise and fall of the sea ice is observed over a 2 - 3 day period during a spring tide, using GPS. These measurements are related to a tide gauge benchmark and the sea surface to enable the reliability of the tide gauge to be checked.
Land Information New Zealand
A tide gauge was installed at Cape Roberts in November 1990 and has been in near continuous operation since. Each year the rise and fall of the sea ice is observed over a 2 - 3 day period during a spring tide, using GPS. These measurements are related to a tide gauge benchmark and the sea surface to enable the reliability of the tide gauge to be checked. The tide gauge data is archived by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). The operation of the tide gauge has encouraged USGS and Ohio State University workers to establish Cape Roberts as a primary datum for their GPS stress and deformation control network in south Victoria Land. In 2000 LINZ in partnership with USGS established a continuously recording GPS station at Cape Roberts.
This programme aims to characterise the relationship between the sea ice, ocean and atmosphere of Antarctica in order to better understand and predict high-latitude coupled climate variability, and to underpin the management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the context of the global climate system.
It concentrates on the climate-related processes occurring within McMurdo Sound to the marginal ice zone. It covers a range of scales, from microns in structure of sea ice, to the order of thousands of kilometres in the process of sea ice dispersal in the Southern Ocean, and the relationships linking Antarctica to global climate variability and change.
The goal of this programme is to obtain a high-quality continuous climate record for Scott Base and Arrival Heights in Antarctica, and archive it in NIWA's publicly accessible climate database. Scott Base is one of 47 reference climate stations for the New Zealand region managed by NIWA, and climate observations (wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, global solar radiation, diffuse solar radiation and direct solar radiation) are recorded there daily.
This climate record began in 1957 and is one of the longest continuous records in Antarctica. Wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity and global solar radiation are also recorded at Arrival Heights. The measurements are needed for characterising the local climate and state of the environment, identifying climate variations and changes, and in research on climate-sensitive processes and ecosystems. This programme also includes measurements from the sea level recorder installed at Scott Base.
The Antarctic atmosphere is an important and unique part of the global climate system. It provides a unique opportunity for us to measure global trends in atmospheric trace gases at sites isolated from anthropogenic sources.
The goal of this research is to improve understanding of how the Antarctic atmospheric chemistry drives and responds to global atmospheric change. Research topics include: ozone depletion chemistry, greenhouse gas measurements, sea-ice/atmosphere trace gas interactions and the pole-ward transport of atmospheric constituents.
To this end, we measure the atmospheric composition throughout the year using ground-based remote sensing instruments and surface in-situ air samples, located at Scott Base and Arrival Heights.
Spectrometer measurements of ozone and nitrogen dioxide from Arrival Heights Infrared spectrometer measurements of nitric (HNO3) and hydrochloric acid (HCl) from Arrival Heights using a Bruker 120M spectrometer
University of Newcastle, Australia
This project provides a better understanding of the volatility of near-Earth space, a plasma region populated by ionised gas embedded in the geomagnetic field. Energy from the Sun must pass through many important regions and boundaries to reach Earth, including the magnetosphere and the ionosphere. The dynamic behaviour of this plasma system, now referred to as "space weather" is of vital importance to life on our planet, and its effects are best studied at high latitudes, eg, the aurora. Space weather can disrupt the operation of satellites, radio and GPS navigation and power distribution systems. The results of this project will provide important input parameters to global magnetospheric circulation models currently under development for space weather forecasting. In particular, it will study the dynamics and topology of the southern high latitude cusp and polar cap, geomagnetic field regions open to direct solar influence. Ultra-low frequency (ULF) waves will be used as tracers to study plasma dynamics and magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling. Scott Base magnetometer and optical imager data, in conjunction with international observations from Australian bases, and USA-UK-Japan-China polar cap remote sites provide the basic dataset.
University of Otago
It is important to understand the response of all regions above the Earth to climate change in order to improve our modelling and prediction capabilities. This should include consideration of the contribution of solar input and its variability through the transmission of solar energy from the Earth's upstream region to the lower atmosphere.
This project provides a better understanding of the volatility of near-Earth space, a plasma region populated by ionised gas embedded in the geomagnetic field.
One example of the solar variability to lower atmosphere linkage comes from solar-induced energetic particle precipitation leading to ozone losses in the upper stratosphere; experimental observations show increased ozone losses occurring during the polar winter and caused by solar-generated events, particularly dramatic explosions on the Sun and aurora producing geomagnetic. This variability may contribute to the recovery times of the man-made ozone hole. Polar ozone depletion has a key influence on the global climate system, directly impacting on NZ both through changes in local ultraviolet (UV) levels and producing regional climate variability.
University of Canterbury
Our studies investigate the Antarctic middle atmosphere's response to natural and man-made factors which change climate, and the feedbacks in the atmosphere which couple this change to climate change at the surface. The measurements made by the Scott Base MF radar provide valuable climate information about how the flow in the middle atmosphere (70-100 km) has changed.
The Scott Base radar record, wind measurements have been made since 1982, is one of the longest duration climate records of this type of data in the world. This record, along with observations from satellite instruments, allows the coupling between the middle atmosphere and the surface over Antarctica to be examined; this coupling is often associated with wave-like motions in the atmosphere that the MF radar is particularly good at observing.
This type of study is important because improvements in the predictive ability of the current generation of climate models may be particularly sensitive to the coupling processes that we examine.
University of Canterbury
The overall aim of this project is to carry out research in the Antarctic that will improve the accuracy of remotely sensed, satellite-derived, snow and ice data. Satellite-derived data from Antarctica currently provide significant information on snow and ice properties. This information is critical to understanding climate, climate change and the response of Antarctica to such change. But snow and ice properties are extremely complex, and the quality and reliability of the satellite-derived data depends on algorithms developed and tested with robust ground truth data, that is, with data derived on the ground in the Antarctic. The accuracy of satellite-derived snow and ice parameters such as surface height, sea ice thickness and accumulation rates - all key components to understanding cryosphere mass balance - can only be assured when coupled with good ground-truthed information. More and more information on snow and ice is coming from satellites. This information is worthless until we understand how accurate it actually is.
Victoria University of Wellington and GNS Science
RICE is an international collaboration between New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, People Republic of China, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States of America. The aim of the project is to interpret an ice core from Roosevelt Island to determine the stability of the Ross Ice Shelf and West Antarctica in a warming world.
During the 2011/12 and 2012/13 field season, the international RICE team recovered a 764m deep ice core, reaching bedrock on 20 December 2012. The RICE ice core is to date the highest quality core recovered from the brittle ice zone, which enables the team to study this section of the core (350-764m) also with exceptionally high resolution. This success is attributed to the newly designed hydraulic system in the New Zealand ice core drilling system, which allows for higher precision core penetration and lower impact core breaks.
From May to July 2013, the RICE team processed already the top 500m of the core in the National Ice Core Facility at GNS Science in Lower Hutt. Over 60,000 samples were collected and seven instruments provided extremely high resolution, continuous flow analyses as the ice was processed. The data confirmed that the ice at the bottom is at least 40,000 years old and that annual resolution will be achieved for at least the last 20,000 years.
The 2013/14 field season focuses on the pull out of the remaining ~70,000 lbs of cargo and fuel from Roosevelt Island. In addition, led by Darcy Mandeno, the NZ/US/UK team will carry out borehole and mass balance measurements and final ground penetrating radar surveys.