Programme 1 : The Antarctic ice-ocean-atmosphere system in a warming world

Programme Leader: Professor Tim Naish, Victoria University of Wellington

Project 1: Antarctic Ice Dynamics Lead PI Dr. Richard Levy from GNS Science, Co-PI Dr. Huw Horgan from Victoria University of Wellington

Pic from fi

Lead PI Dr. Richard Levy from GNS Science, Co-PI Dr. Huw Horgan from Victoria University of Wellington

Rapid deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) remains a primary uncertainty in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sea level rise projections. This project will focus on understanding past and current drivers, mechanisms and feedbacks of ice sheet retreat to inform projections of future change. The project will require retrieval of paleo records, targeting periods in Earth’s history with analogous atmospheric CO2 concentrations to better understand Antarctica’s climate and ice sheet configuration during previous warm periods. Understanding ice flow dynamics, grounding line interactions and the influence of oceanic and atmospheric warming will be of critical importance to simulating changes in ice mass under future climate scenarios. A better understanding of meltwater production will contribute to the other projects, particularly with respect to sea ice production, carbon sequestration, global heat uptake and its influence on marine ecosystems.

The project will focus on the questions:

  1. How will marine-based ice sheets respond to a +2°C world?
  2. What are the effects of this response?
  3. What are the consequences of surpassing +2°C

Project 2: Antarctic ocean mechanics: past, present & future


Lead PI Dr. Craig Stevens from NIWA, Co-PI Dr. Christina Riesselman from the University of Otago

This project will focus on understanding 1) oceanic and atmospheric processes that play a key role in grounding line retreat and ice sheet melt in a warming world and 2) the emergence of the anthropogenic signal from the natural variability. It will investigate feedbacks in the atmosphere-ocean system, the influence of teleconnections, requiring integration of existing observations (including in-situ, proxy records and remote sensing), new time-series observations and model development and analysis at a range of scales.

The project will focus on the questions:

  1. How are oceanic and atmospheric heat transports changing?
  2. When will we see the emergence of the anthropogenic signal from the natural variability?

Programme 2: Ross Sea Region ecosystem dynamics in a warming world

Programme Leader: Professor Ian Hawes, University of Waikato

Project 3: Ross Sea Region Ecosystem Dynamics

Project 3

Lead PI Associate Professor Miles Lamare from the University of Otago, Co-PI Dr. Charles Lee from the University of Waikato

The Ross Sea Region (RSR) includes some of the most pristine ecosystems on Earth. However, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are increasingly subject to the effects of climate change, which may fundamentally impact their unique ecosystems by altering the physical environment in ways that can affect species distribution, abundance, and productivity. The goal of Project 3 is to improve projections of how RSR ecosystems will respond to anticipated change.

A +2°C (Paris Agreement) world may see shifts in RSR ecosystems and presents challenges for international Antarctic organisations to meet environmental protection and conservation objectives such as the Protocol on Environmental Protection and the RSR Marine Protected Area (RSR-MPA). The science community has a critical role in providing national and international Antarctic policymakers with quantitative biodiversity assessments and improved projections of biological change to support evidence-based decision making.

We will test two overarching hypotheses:

  1. Shifts in terrestrial and coastal marine biogeography will be driven by changes in the distribution of suitable habitats in a warmer climate, moderated by constrains on connectivity, biotic interactions, and taxa flexibility in response to change.
  2. In a warming world, pelagic food webs in the Ross Sea will be fundamentally altered due to spatial and temporal changes in primary production and particularly in loss of habitat for sympagic organisms.

Project 4: Sea Ice and Carbon Cycle Feedbacks

Icebreak out

Lead PI Prof James Renwick from Victoria University of Wellington, Co-PI Sea Ice Dr. Natalie Robinson from NIWA, Co-PI Carbon Cycle Dr. Liz Keller from GNS Science

This project will investigate processes influencing 1) sea ice variability and 2) Southern Ocean carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake and resulting feedbacks on oceans, ice shelves, ecosystems, and carbon budgets. To accomplish this, it will explore spatio-temporal variability in sea ice characteristics (e.g. thickness, area, persistence) and, in collaboration with project 2, quantify processes that control break-up and advection. It will investigate the role of polynyas in sea ice dynamics and the formation of Antarctic Bottom Water. It will assess the role of sea ice in buttressing ice shelves and associated implications for ice shelf stability, and as a key habitat and source of primary productivity for marine ecosystems. This project will link with projects 2 and 3 to consider how physical (e.g. sea ice and deep-water formation) and biological (e.g phytoplankton blooms) contribute to Southern Ocean CO2 uptake and implications for atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

The project will focus on the questions:

  1. What are the drivers of sea ice variability and changes in Southern Ocean CO2 uptake?
  2. Are they related?
  3. What are the consequences?