Research

Our research is designed to make a difference to current and future generations.

We seek to understand the influence of climate change on Antarctica, and the consequences of Antarctic change on the Earth system— for enhanced protection of unique polar environments, and improved projections of the impacts of changing climate on New Zealand and our world.

The Platform will achieve this through focusing its research on the Ross Sea region, which is home to world’s largest ice shelf, fed by both the both the East and West Antarctic ice sheets, and is critical to their stability. The amount and rate of sea level rise in the coming centuries depends on the response of the Antarctica’s marine-based ice sheets, and specifically the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, to warming of the atmosphere and ocean.

The Ross Ice Shelf also super cools surface ocean waters, producing sea-ice and one of the largest factories producing cold salty dense Antarctic bottom water, which is critical for circulating heat through the global ocean. The circulation of the Southern Ocean also sustains global marine productivity by returning nutrient-rich deep water to the surface and exporting nutrients to lower latitudes. The Southern Ocean takes up more anthropogenic heat and carbon than the oceans at other latitudes, helping to slow the pace of atmospheric warming, while accelerating melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Given the profound influence of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean on sea level, climate, and marine ecosystems, change in the Ross Sea region will have widespread consequences for the Earth and humanity.

Given the profound influence of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean on sea level, climate, and marine ecosystems, change in the Ross Sea region will have widespread consequences for the Earth and humanity.

The Platform’s portfolio of long- term and seed projects focus on:

  • Stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet and its impact on global sea levels
  • Ross Sea Region ice, atmosphere and ocean processes in a warming world
  • Vulnerability of Ross Sea Region ecosystems to environmental change

End-users of Antarctic research, including Antarctic policy makers and environmental managers, other national and international research groups, international scientific and policy bodies, and the private sector are engaged in the enterprise through a science-policy interface expert group (see Impact for more).

Read Our Story to find out our history, and how the New Zealand science community developed this science programme. We collaborate with national and international research and Antarctic programmes.

Visit the Knowledge Hub for access to research publications and outputs, and go to Updates to find out what we are up to.

Field Locations

Building on New Zealand’s long involvement in Antarctica, the Platform’s research is embedded in the Ross Sea Region (see map).

Field teams’ efforts focus on sea ice dynamics, oceanography and ice shelves, and Antarctic biota, working to fill knowledge gaps that currently constrain our ability to understand the consequences of change.

Field work is undertaken in remote locations and challenging conditions: diving into -1.8°C waters to explore life under the sea ice, visiting remote mountain ranges to determine when the exposed rocks were last covered in ice, and voyaging into the most Southerly seas to understand ocean dynamics and marine ecosystems. Drilling into Antarctica’s floating ice shelves will access the ocean cavity and marine sediments below, to decipher the unique record of how Antarctica changed when temperatures were warmer than today.

ASP Large Square cropped Large

Our Projects

The Platform consists of four long-term research projects addressing the future-facing goal of improving policy-relevant projections of physical and biological change, and their global impacts (2019-2025).

The Platform is designed to address the specifics of the Antarctic ice-ocean-atmosphere system and Ross Sea region ecosystem dynamics in a warming world. The research design promotes collaboration and connectivity between projects to promote efficiency, cross-fertilisation of ideas and building capability.

In addition, the Platform is funding, or co-funding, a series of research projects that align with our mandate.

  • We have established a National Modelling Hub to facilitate interdisciplinary interactions between diverse numerical modelling experts.
  • We are planning a dedicated biodiversity voyage to study nearshore coastal communities along the Victoria Land coast.
  • We are building an international collaboration to undertake scientific drilling of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • And we are investing in seed projects as opportunities arise.
ASP Projects integration pic 10 Sept

Figure: Key research questions and connectivity between long-term projects.