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NZ scientists measure Antarctic sea ice

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/11/2016

A tape measure and a drill will be key items in oceanographer Mike Williams' tool kit as he heads to Antarctica.

The NIWA scientist leaves for Scott Base on Wednesday as part of a team trying to get a better understanding of the role of sea ice in climate change.

The team, which also includes scientists from Otago and Canterbury universities, aims to measure the extent and thickness of this year's sea ice.

Dr Williams says sea ice growth is a crucial component in models used to predict future climate, but the information currently used in the models does not represent reality.

"What we hope to do is have some really good measurements that will help us understand the processes around how sea ice grows," he said.

The measurements are made by a Basler BT-67 aircraft towing electromagnetic induction measurement equipment and by a team on the ground.

The ground team's measurements are used to ensure those made by the aircraft are correct.

"We measure by drilling a hole and using a tape measure," said Dr Williams, whose three-week trip is the first stage of a two-year project.

"It's very low tech but that's the attraction. It's been done this way for so long that we have a very consistent measurement through time."

However, the ground team will be able to cover only between five to 10 per cent of what the aircraft can.

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