The Antarctic Science Platform is uniquely placed to contribute to international scientific efforts to refine global-scale future predictions, and to deliver Antarctic-specific information that is relevant to New Zealand.
Internationally, New Zealand is one of several countries actively involved in climate change-related research in Antarctica. Higher atmospheric and oceanic temperatures will be accompanied by higher sea levels, increased melting of glaciers and ice sheets, disrupted seasonal and interannual climate and weather patterns, and cascading impacts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
The Platform has established a Future Projections Expert Group, tasked with coordinating aspects of the four long-term science projects that will ultimately produce projections of how our climate, oceans, ice sheets and biodiversity will change in the future.
The Future Projections Expert Group assists in prioritisation and coordination of modelling experiments, and provision of policy-ready projections for stakeholders. Whilst specific modelling experiments will be undertaken to deliver results for individual disciplinary research projects, coupled model simulations will also be formulated that span multiple long-term research projects, where possible. This approach to interdisciplinary working is a key aim of the ASP National Modelling Hub, which brings together numerical scientists from the physical and biological sciences.
Recognising that our Earth is a complex and intimately coupled system, our future-focused simulations study the effect of increasing greenhouse gases on the goals listed below.
To achieve these goals we are building a tightly-coupled network of researchers, and we are partnering with research groups around the world to ensure that the work we’re doing is of the highest possible standard.
We hope that by tackling the ‘big’ problems of Antarctica in this way we can provide the best information to our end users, whether that’s the Prime Minister of New Zealand, or the next generation of New Zealand scientists learning about Antarctica in the classroom.
We are using a suite of models that represent processes at a wide range of scales, from high-resolution atmospheric schemes to multi-decadal climate simulations. We aim to make predictions at scales that are useful both to field biologists working in the Dry Valleys, who need very detailed information, right through to whole continent and even global scales for cryospheric and oceanographic studies. Our focus is on changes in spatial and temporal variability.
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is often considered the ‘powerhouse’ of the global oceanic conveyor system, transporting heat and salt between the world’s large ocean basins. Changes in the Southern Ocean affect the whole globe, and yet our understanding of this vast area is limited by its sheer scale and accessibility. Modelling how global ocean currents upwell onto the continental shelf, flow under the ice shelves, interact with surface winds and sea ice, and then return northward is a major challenge that requires us to use a wide variety of models, and expertise.
A range of ice sheet models of varying complexities allow us to study ice sheet and ice shelf changes at scales from hundreds of metres to thousands of kilometres. By integrating these models with the climate and ocean simulations we are running, our ice sheet projections will be able to explore the hugely important role played by feedback mechanisms that can, for example, turn a small change in ocean temperature into a substantial change in global sea level.