Sea ice photo by Tim Haskell

Why is Antarctic sea ice melting?

12 April 2023

Setting up camp in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound is always full of uncertainty, with blizzards whipping up the snow and ice, changing the landscape.

But for NIWA oceanographer Dr Natalie Robinson, last October's annual sea ice research trip was unlike any of her previous 19 expeditions there. The changes she saw were drastic.

"It was an eye opener," she says. "It was completely unprecedented."

During preparations for the camp, Wellington-based Robinson kept an eye on the sea ice over winter, expecting to see it grow as it normally would. But a series of southerly storms over that time had created unusual conditions in the Ross Sea region, blowing the sea ice offshore.

The team from the Antarctic Science Platform's sea ice research programme were facing the prospect of having no ice that was strong or thick enough to camp on, or for vehicles to travel on.

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