Science

K070: Whales, seals and penguins: defining functional roles and trophic dependencies of key top predators in the Ross Sea

Regina Eisert
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.

K067: Does Sea Ice Microbial Production Support Benthic Consumers in the Ross Sea Region?

K067: Does Sea Ice Microbial Production Support Benthic Consumers in the Ross Sea Region?

Stephen Wing
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.

K063: Antarctic Sea Ice Mapping at McMurdo Sound

K063: Antarctic Sea Ice Mapping at McMurdo Sound


Pat Langhorne
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.

K123: Environmental Domains Classification for the Ross Sea Region

K123: Environmental Domains Classification for the Ross Sea Region

Fraser Morgan
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:

  • Developing a terrestrial environmental classification for the Ross Sea region using environmental domains analysis that encompasses climate, landform, soil, and biology layers;
  • Mapping soil attributes using soil-landscape models, validated with field data to establish the spatial distribution of soils in the McMurdo Dry Valleys;
  • Extending our existing soil climate network to include upland slopes for monitoring the impact of climate change on soil active layer and permafrost depth;
  • Characterising soil microbial communities.

K081: Antarctic Aquatic Ecosystems

K081: Antarctic Aquatic Ecosystems


Ian Hawes
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.

 Metadata links

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

Characterisation of aquatic resources in McMurdo Sound region of Antarctica: water chemistry,  biological identity and genomic samples

K043: Antarctic Sea Ice, Algal Productivity and Global Climate Change

K043: Antarctic Sea Ice, Algal Productivity and Global Climate Change


Ken Ryan
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.

Metadata and website links

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae in the Cape Hallett region

The bacterial biomass of sea ice from Seabee Hook, Cape Hallett region

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae and bacteria in Terra Nova Bay and the physical parameters of their environment

Algal response to transplantation with a ice core flipping experiment, Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea

The role of grazing on sea ice algae and sea ice bacteria by ciliates and flagellated (zooplankton) in Terra Nova Bay

The response of sea ice and brine water algae and bacteria to changes in salinity, temperature, light and UVB in Terra Nova Bay

The distribution, taxonomy, physiology and feeding habits of pelagic amphipods in Terra Nova Bay

The biomass, productivity, physiology and grazing pressures of phytoplankton during the polar winter in the Ross Sea region

A mathematical model of population dynamics to explain changes in biodiversity of microorganisms in ice covered marine environments

The biomass, productivity and biodiversity of algae and bacteria in Granite Harbour and the physical parameters of their environment

The response of sea ice and brine water algae and bacteria to changes in salinity, temperature, light and UVB in Granite Harbour

The distribution, taxonomy,  physiology and feeding  habits of pelagic amphipods in the Ross Sea

Community composition survey at Terra Nova Bay with similar samples collected at Cape Evans and Cape Armitage

Trace metal analysis of sea ice at Granite Harbour

K020: Predicting Biocomplexity in Dry Valley Ecosystems

K020: Predicting Biocomplexity in Dry Valley Ecosystems


Craig Cary
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.

Metadata links

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

K122: Adélie Penguin Population Dynamics

K122: Adélie Penguin Population Dynamics


Phil Lyver
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.

 Metadata and website links

Population counts and monitoring of the breeding cycle of Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) throughout an entire breeding season at Cape Royds

Census data using aerial photographs on the number of breeding Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) at colonies in the Ross Sea region

Population regulation and demography in Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) at Cape Bird, Ross Island

Population regulation and demography in Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) at Cape Hallett

Aerial photographs and ground counts for assessing breeding success of Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) rookeries on Ross Island

Validating a new method for measuring stress levels of Adelie penguins

Penguin Science webpage

K082: Coastal Benthic Ecosystem Structure and Function

K082: Coastal Benthic Ecosystem Structure and Function


Vonda Cummings
NIWA

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.

 Metadata and website links

The biodiversity of the coastal underwater marine benthic ecosystem in the Ross Sea Region

Seafloor sampling of the north western Ross Sea area including Cape Hallett, Cape Adare, Coulman Island and Cape Russell

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

Benthic invertebrate community composition, sediment characteristics, and seafloor habitat structure of New Harbour

NIWA's ICECUBE web page

K068: Effects of Climate Change on Antarctic Marine Invertebrate Embryo and Larval Physiology

K068: Effects of Climate Change on Antarctic Marine Invertebrate Embryo and Larval Physiology

Miles Lamare
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.

 Metadata and website links

UV radiation penetration into the marine ecosystem of McMurdo Sound

The direct effects of UV radiation (UVR) on embryo and larval development and survival and DNA damage of the sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri in McMurdo Sound

The degree that UV-B absorbing compounds provide UV-R protection in embryos and larvae of the sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri

The activity and expression of DNA repair/photoreactivation with the enzyme photolyase in the sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri, McMurdo Sound

Obtaining action spectrum and biological weighting functions for UVR effects on larvae of a suite of Antarctic invertebrates, McMurdo Sound

The kinetics of UVR induced damage to DNA in the sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri, McMurdo Sound

The activity and expression of DNA repair mechanisms in two Antarctic Starfish Odontaster validus and Odontaster meridionalis compared with a New Zealand species Odontaster benhami

The fundamental physiology and biology processes of Sterechinus neumayeri embryos and larvae and how they are effected by increased UV radiation, McMurdo Sound

The effects of increased PAR and UV on the xanthophyl cycle of Antarctic ice algae

Investigation of levels of endocrine disrupting compounds in the Antarctic environment and food chain

Analysing toxicological impacts of contaminants on Notothenioid fish: Impacts of Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)

Scott Base Tide Gauge

Scott Base Tide Gauge


Andrew Harper
NIWA

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.

Metadata and website links

Scott Base tide gauge records since 2001

Scott Base Sea Level Data

Cape Roberts Tide Gauge

Cape Roberts Tide Gauge


Glen Rowe
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.

 Metadata links

Cape Roberts tide gauge records since 1990

K131: Sea Ice and Southern Ocean Processes

K131: Sea Ice and Southern Ocean Processes

Tim Haskell
Callaghan Institute

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.

Metadata links

Velocity profiles, and ocean boundary layer experiments of the near ice stratification and platelet ice matrix of the McMurdo Sound sea ice

Temperature, salinity and current turbulence along an east to west  transect across McMurdo Sound

K089: Climate Data Acquisition

K089: Climate Data Acquisition


Andrew Harper
NIWA

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.

 Metadata links


Climate data from manual observations and automatic weather stations at Scott Base and Arrival Heights

K085: Drivers of Global Change in the Antarctic: Atmospheric Remote-sensing

K085: Drivers of Global Change in the Antarctic: Atmospheric Remote-sensing


Dan Smale
NIWA

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.

 Metadata links

Measurements of the total amount of ozone in the vertical column of the atmosphere from a ground based Dobson spectrophotometer at 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

Springtime chlorine dioxide and bromine monoxide measurements from a diode array spectrometer

Spectrometer sunlight and moonlight measurements of Ozone (O3), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Chlorine Dioxide (OClO) and Bromine Oxide (BrO) from Arrival Heights

Column and vertical profiles of chlorine monoxide from a heterodyne spectrometer

Arrival Heights surface ozone concentration TEI

K069: Monitoring Space Weather in the Polar Region

K069: Monitoring Space Weather in the Polar Region


Brian Fraser
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.

Metadata links

Induction magnetometer data, Arrival heights, Scott Base

All-Sky photometer data, Arrival Heights, Scott Base

Very low frequency subionospheric communication transmitter observations

Very low frequency radio observations of lightning discharges

K060: Space Weather Monitoring (AARDDVARK)

K060: Space Weather Monitoring (AARDDVARK)


Craig Rodger
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.

K055: Dynamics and Ionisation in the Antarctic Middle Atmosphere

K055: Dynamics and Ionisation in the Antarctic Middle Atmosphere


Adrian McDonald
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.

 Metadata links

Daily records of the dynamics, ionization and structure of the Antarctic mesosphere from Scott Base

Measurement of time and space structure of atmospheric planetary waves in the polar mesosphere from Scott Base, South Pole Station and collaboration with other countries

MF radar measurements

K053: Investigation of Snow and Ice Properties at Land and Sea to Improve Remotely Sensed Mass Balance Observations

 K053: Investigation of Snow and Ice Properties at Land and Sea to Improve Remotely Sensed Mass Balance Observations

Wolfgang Rack
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.

 Metadata links

Ground penetrating radar, snow accumulation and snow pit measurements at McMurdo Ice Shelf and in the catchment basin of Erebus glacier

Land and sea ice sructure west and south of Ross Island measured by ground penetrating radar, UAV, and helicopter EM bird

K049: RICE: Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project

K049: RICE: Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution project


Nancy Bertler
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.

 Metadata and website links

NZ ITASE metadata

Evans Piedmont Glacier clean snow pit sampling for recent decade trace element record and AWS (2004-2008) data collection

Surface snow samples containing aeolian dust recovered from 40 sites on first and multi-year McMurdo sea ice using ultra clean methodology in November 2009

ITASE website

Nancy's website