Reality check: Increasing sea ice making it difficult to reach Antarctic stations

This is reality – not a forecast from a a mathematical model.

THE size and power of ships needed to break through Antarctica’s increasing sea ice levels is a worry for the global research community.

IN recent years countries including Australia have battled to reach their stations on the frozen continent, making resupply missions time consuming and expensive, Australian Antarctic Division spokesman Rod Wooding said.

“We’re noticing that the sea ice situation is becoming more difficult,” he told reporters on Monday.The sea ice through the Southern Ocean and around Australia’s Mawson Station usually breaks up for a couple of months a year allowing ships to enter the bay but that did not happen in 2013-14.“We had to get fuel in by helicopter which is inadequate for the long-term sustainability of the station,” Dr Wooding said.“Other national programs have had similar problems: the French in particular, Japanese also.”

The problem has been the main driver for a meeting of more than 50 international experts, convening in Hobart until Wednesday, to try and nut out a plan to accurately forecast sea ice levels.Meteorologists along with ice and Antarctic experts will take part in a series of workshops, looking at trends in satellite imagery and the environment.“One of the things that Antarctic programs will need to understand going forward is what sort of ice breaking capability we’re going to need to get through the ice in these areas,” Dr Wooding said.“Australia is currently in a tender process for a new ice breaker … and it’s important in understanding what sort of ice breaker we might need … to have a good understanding of likely sea ice conditions.”The

re is no single reason why sea ice levels are increasing but Hobart-based expert Tony Worby said it tends to gather around icebergs and wind patterns also play a part.“We know sea ice extent is increasing, there was a record maximum in September 2014,” Prof Worby said. “It’s quite hard to forecast but whatever effort we put in to improving our ability to forecast sea ice will ultimately pay dividends in terms of savings for national programs.”

Sunshinehours also points out that current Antarctic sea ice extent is the highest measured for this time of year. (In fact the global sea ice extent is the 3rd highest ever measured for this day of the year).


from sunshinehours


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