Antarctica NZ continues important Sea Ice project despite COVID-19 complications

Antarctica NZ continues important Sea Ice project despite COVID-19 complications

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Antarctica New Zealand has, despite COVID-19 complications, continued and successfully completed an important sea ice project.

The Sea Ice Mass Balance Station, which is a special probe measuring the thickness, temperature and ice formation in the sea has been retrieved for the summer period.

The probe is usually installed in mid-winter by Scott Base staff and is then removed four months later by University of Otago scientists.


Scientists have been gathering important measurements using the prove since 1996. This year, due to COVID-19 complications, only a limited number of people have travelled to Scott Base. The restrictions of COVID-19 were removed by Antarctica New Zealand base staff, and it is the first time this has ever happened.

The University of Otago Senior Lecturer Dr Greg Leonard says the sea ice probe team worked very closely, remotely, with Scott Base Staff to team them how to remove it in the correct circumstances, including gathering its important long-term sea ice data.

“Using a combination of written manuals, regular Zoom meetings and telephone calls with Scott Base staff we taught them how to install and remove it,” Dr Greg Leonard says.

Dr Inga Smith, a sea ice physicist, says it is ‘vitally’ important to continue gathering this information about sea ice and continue the yearly measurements regardless of what could potentially stop it from happening.

“This data builds a really important long-term picture about what is happening with sea ice formation and change in the McMurdo Sound,” Dr Inga Smith says.

Usually, at around this time, the scientists would usually be driving across the sea ice in Hagglund having just removed the probe themselves. Still, instead, they were in New Zealand eagerly but patiently waiting for the great news of the successful removal.

Image: Pexels

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