Australia’s Antarctic summer research season gets underway today, with scientists joining NASA in a world first mapping of the East Antarctic coastline.
NASA’s Operation IceBridge is the largest survey ever undertaken of the world’s polar regions, using a low flying Gulfstream v aircraft packed with high technology instruments (flying out of Hobart) and polar satellites to measure ice elevation to a precision of less than five centimetres.
At the same time ground teams, including two NASA scientists, will move along the same travel path of the aircraft and the polar-orbiting satellite, collecting ice cores and measuring snow cover to ‘ground truth’ what is recorded from above.
The measurements of the world’s ice sheets will improve projections of future sea level change caused by a changing climate and allow more accurate forecasts of annual sea ice extent.
The partnership with NASA is one of the many scientific endeavours that will be undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP) in the months ahead.
This year more than 550 expeditioners will travel south from Hobart with the AAP supporting and undertaking research on seabirds, glaciers, the ice cap and the Southern Ocean.
Other projects this summer include biological and geotechnical surveys around the site of Australia’s proposed new runway near Davis research station, development of our traverse capability and a new station on Macquarie Island.
The first of ten Airbus flights this season departs Hobart today for Australia’s ice runway, Wilkins Aerodrome, while the first voyage of the season on our icebreaker Aurora Australis departs Hobart on Friday.
Six flights are planned using the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-17A to transport heavy equipment south.
It is a clear demonstration of the Morrison Government’s ongoing commitment to scientific research, to climate science and to maintaining Australia’s leadership in Antarctic exploration.
I wish our entire Antarctic team every success.