Antarctic Science Platform

The purpose of the Antarctic Science Platform is to conduct excellent science to understand Antarctica’s impact on the global earth system, and how this might change in a +2°C (Paris Agreement) world. Funding was announced in the 2017 Budget for a new Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) for Antarctic science. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment invited Antarctica New Zealand to develop a plan to host the Antarctic Science Platform.

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean fundamentally influence the global climate system. New Zealand has a long and successful legacy of scientific endeavour in Antarctica leading to important scientific breakthroughs, such as the vulnerability of the Antarctic Ice Sheets to increasing global temperatures leading to global sea level rise, changes in global and regional climate patterns and ocean currents with risks to entire ecosystems and human societies around the world.

The Paris Agreement, ratified by 195 countries including New Zealand, is aiming to limit warming to well below 2°C and perhaps even 1.5°C to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change. The targeted research of the Antarctic Science Platform will investigate how greenhouse gas emissions will influence Antarctica and the Southern Ocean's response to global temperature rise.

Such knowledge is vital to improve New Zealand’s capability to detect, predict and adapt to changing environmental conditions, to make informed choices about mitigation targets and to develop effective adaptation strategies for unavoidable changes. The Antarctic Science Platform will also focus on thresholds for irreversible change with choices over the next decade having the potential to alter the natural environment for millennia to come.

The Antarctic Science Platform will provide stable funding for underpinning, longer-term Antarctic science critical to maximising scientific and strategic benefits for New Zealand. It enables research focus and collaboration at a level not previously experienced in New Zealand. More information about the platform can be found here.

The platform addresses four science priorities, and three cross-cutting programs.

Science priorities

  1. Understand the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet
  2. Understanding the impacts of change in the Antarctic atmosphere and the Southern Ocean
  3. Understanding threats to ecosystem dynamics in the Ross Sea
  4. Understanding change in terrestrial and nearshore Antarctic environments, and the connections between them

Cross-cutting Programmes

  1. Building innovation and interdisciplinary capability
  2. Developing technology
  3. Supporting and developing long – term data sets

Impact Statements

Pic from fi

Research Priority 1: Understanding the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Impact statement 1.1
Uncertainty in sea-level rise predictions is reduced through improved understanding of the rate-determining processes and feedbacks on marine-based ice mass loss to inform sea-level rise adaptation options

Impact statement 1.2
Thresholds identified for irreversible loss of marine-based ice sheets allow critical assessments of mitigation pathways (e.g. Paris Agreement) and inform international decision makers

Impact statement 1.3
Understanding the far-reaching impacts of ice sheet melt on sea-ice, biological systems, global ocean circulation and climate informs adaptation options and critical assessment of mitigation pathways


Research Priority 2: Understanding the impacts of change in the Antarctic atmosphere and Southern Ocean

Impact statement 2.1
The distinction of natural-and human-induced changes in the Antarctic atmosphere and the Southern Ocean provides a basis to build international commitment to climate change response strategies

Impact statement 2.2
Uncertainty in future climate scenarios is reduced through improved understanding of how oceanic and atmospheric processes influence the cryosphere.

Impact statement 2.3
Management of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environment is improved by greater understanding of the implications of regional climate change on biological systems

Project 3

Research Priority 3: Understanding threats to ecosystem dynamics in the Ross Sea

Impact statement 3.1
The structure and dynamics of the Ross Sea region ecosystem are sufficiently understood to forecast large scale biological responses to environmental change

Impact statement 3.2
New Zealand’s Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area monitoring strategy is capable of detecting changes in ecosystem components, and contributes to international efforts supporting informed decision making.

Impact statement 3.3
The conservation value and benefits of the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area (MPA) are described and used to inform the design of this MPA and others worldwide

Icebreak out

Research Priority 4: Understanding change in terrestrial and nearshore Antarctic environments, and the connections between them

Impact statement 4.1
Increased understanding of the sensitivity and vulnerability of ecosystems (marine and terrestrial) to climate change and human influences supports integrated management

Impact statement 4.2
The importance, variability and vulnerability of processes that connect different Antarctic environments (aquatic, terrestrial and coastal) is understood

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is a global agreement on climate change ratified by 195 countries. New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement on the 4th of October 2016 and the agreement entered into force a month later on the 4th of November.

The purpose is to limit warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and perhaps 1.5°C. To achieve this requires a reduction in emissions to 19 Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent per year (Gt CO2e/yr) by 2030. Current pledges amount to 52 to 58 Gt CO2 equivalent per year.

Current pledges lead to an increase of global temperature of +3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Current policies led to a warming of +3.4 +3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Consequences in a Paris Agreement world

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

Some key conclusions from the report are

  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society
  • Human activities caused ~1.0 °C warming (range 0.8-1.2°C)
  • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Without largescale CO2 removal, emissions need to decline well before 2030 to limit global warming below 1.5°C

International efforts to monitor greenhouse gas emission reductions

The United Nations Environment 2018 Emission Gap Report assesses national mitigation efforts and ambitions to achieve the Paris Agreement. It particularly looks at the Emission Gap – the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels that are consistent with a 1.5 or 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

The report found

  • Global emissions have reached historic levels at 53.5 GtCO2e per year
  • If the emission gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the 2°C temperature goal can still be reached
  • Only 57 counties (representing 60% of global emissions) are on track to peak emissions by 2030
  • Nations must raise their ambitions by 3 times to meet the 2°C and 5 times to meet the 1.5°C goal
Scientists studying in Dry Valleys
21 November 2019

Ten million dollar plan

It’s the driest, coldest, windiest, place on Earth ... yet millions of critters still flourish in Antarctica. And now, thanks to 10 million dollars of multi-year funding, we’re going to know more about them and how they’ll adapt … Read More

Tim Naish
18 September 2019

Welcome Tim Naish

The Antarctic Science Platform is delighted to announce a new addition to its leadership team, internationally renowned Antarctic scientist, Professor Tim Naish. The Victoria University of Wellington Professor will look after a … Read More

0 B3 A4008
24 October 2019

Contestable funding recipients announced

One hundred thousand dollars has been awarded to six new Antarctic science projects. The grants have been funded by the Antarctic Science Platform, and are for early career researchers and the interpretation of existing data. Si… Read More

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