Measuring Antarctic sea ice

Sea ice drives the world’s weather by influencing the major ocean currents as it forms and melts. It also reflects solar heat back into space. Less sea ice means disrupted currents, disrupted weather, and a warmer world. But how much sea ice is there, how much does it drive climate change, and how much is it affected by climate change?

To answer these questions, scientists need an accurate method of measuring sea ice mass, but existing tools simply aren’t accurate enough.

Lincoln Agritech Research Scientist Adrian Tan is part of a team that has, over several years of research, developed a device that can separate snow cover and sea thickness, and so lead to accurate measurement sea ice mass. Adrian developed the snow radar used in the device.

It has been used on a drone, and then flown by helicopter. In 2022 the team was awarded $929,000 from the Marsden Fund to progress their research, integrating the device with a fixed-wing aircraft that can survey much wider areas.

They will conduct an aerial survey of up to 5000 km of Antarctica’s coastline, while developing better satellite techniques to measure sea ice thickness.

“Sea ice thickness remains a key piece to the climate change puzzle,” says Prof Wolfgang Rack, of the University of Canterbury, who, along with Adrian, is a Principal Investigator in the research. “This work will shed some light on its current state and build a foundation for understanding how it might change in the future.”

“The data collected in our research will be extensive, and will greatly help in measuring the impacts of climate change,” says Adrian.

It will provide the basis for developing a satellite-derived measure of coastal sea ice thickness and data sets that can be used to develop robust computer simulations.

Latest News

Marsden award to study sea ice and climate change
How much sea ice is there, how much does it drive climate change, how much is it affected by climate...
Read more
Science on a stamp
It’s not every scientist who gets to see their work featured on a stamp, but that’s just happened to Lincoln...
Read more
Drone-mounted radar to reveal avalanche risk
Could drone-mounted radar be the key to accurately identifying avalanche risk above alpine roads? A multi-disciplinary team of scientists and...
Read more