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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 2008-09: VUWAE 53


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The principal purpose of this year's field season was to conduct a maintenance work on automatic weather stations deployed at Evans Piedmont Glacier and Skinner Saddle and to measure mass balance at Victoria Lower Evans Piedmont Glacier as part of our long-term monitoring project. In addition, we recovered five shallow ice cores from the McMurdo Ice Shelf. This field work of the 2008/09 season is part of a larger, multi-year programme: NZ ITASE.

The NZ ITASE programme has five objectives:


The focus of the New Zealand ITASE group is to provide information from the climate sensitive, low altitude, coastal sites. This will capture the climate signature of the troposphere, which represents a regional account on the Ross Sea climate. The ice core data are expected to provide a record of air temperature, snow accumulation, precipitation source, atmospheric circulation strength, storm frequency, sea ice variation, ocean productivity, and anthropogenic influences. The results will help to decide whether the Ross Sea region is currently cooling or warming with a longer-term prospective, taking low frequency climate variability (100 to 1000 year cycles) into account. Furthermore, proposed tele-connections such as the Amundsen Low-ENSO correlation [Bertler et al. 2004; Meyerson et al. 2002] or the Southern Hemisphere Annual Mode [Thompson and Solomon 2002] can be further constrained.


Latitudinal Gradient Project Objective

The project is expected to contribute substantially to the Latitudinal Gradient Project, as it can provide a history of temperature, humidity, sea ice cover, precipitation source, atmospheric circulation, and ocean productivity along the Victoria Coast for the last 200 to 10,000 years. Furthermore, the timing and velocity of the Ross Ice Shelf retreat some 9 to 5ka years ago is still discussed controversially [Hall and Denton 2000; Steig et al. 1998; Steig et al. 2000].


ANDRILL Objective

The ice core locations 2 and 3 (Evans Piedmont Glacier and Mt. Erebus Saddle) are in the vicinity of planned ANDRILL coring locations (Granite Harbour and Windless Bight). The ice core records will provide a high resolution climate dataset, which serves as a reference for the younger part of marine record recovered through ANDRILL.


Longer-Term Mass Balance Objective

During the 1999/2000 season mass balance measurement devices (submergence velocity method [Hamilton and Whillans 2000; Hamilton et al. 1998]) have been deployed at Victoria Lower Glacier. The device has since been revisited. The measurements show that the glacier has a slightly negative mass balance, losing around 12-15cm thickness per year. A continuation of the measurements will allow monitoring changes in the ablation intensity of the McMurdo Dry Valleys.


The Antarctic – New Zealand Connection Objective

New Zealand's future economic and social development, environmental sustainability, and infrastructural planning critically relies upon the accurate assessment of the impact of "global warming" in our sector of the planet. Future page 2 climate change is a result of both natural variability and anthropogenic influence. A joint programme between Victoria University, GNS Science, University of Maine, is investigating ice core records from New Zealand (Tasman Glacier and Mt. Ruapehu ice field). The comparison between our NZ and Antarctic ice core records will provide much needed data for the development of realistic regional climate models to predict NZ climate in the 21th Century [Mullan et al. 2001].