Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate

The tongue of a glacier extending in to sea ice.

The tongue of this glacier extends in to a frozen lake. (Photo: Ian Allison)

The overarching goal of this program was to better understand and quantify the role of Antarctica and the high-latitude Southern Ocean and atmosphere in the global climate system.

Antarctica and its surrounding ocean are dominated and shaped by the presence of snow and ice which, while themselves controlled by the climatic regime and very sensitive to climate change, also influence and provide major feedbacks to the global climate system.

Many globally significant processes are driven by the unique climate and geography of the Antarctic region. These include the uptake of carbon dioxide by the Southern Ocean; the overturning circulation of the deep ocean; the balance between water storage and discharge in the main continental ice-sheet; changes in surface energy, mass and momentum exchange by ice masses; and energy transfer between all levels of the atmosphere to space. Understanding these processes is vital for understanding and predicting climate and environmental changes and their impacts. These impacts include future greenhouse gas levels, sea-level rise, the variability and rate of change of climate, and changes in atmospheric composition. The latter includes the stratospheric 'ozone hole', which affects life in Southern Hemisphere nations.

To better predict future climate we need better earth system models that describe the earth-ocean-atmosphere-ice interactions. This requires us to understand the individual components as well as their interactions, determine the parameters that quantify the processes described by the models, and obtain improved data sets to support these activities.

Much of the research conducted in this program continues in the new Climate Processes and Change program and is summarised in the 2008 report Australia's Contribution to Antarctic Climate Science. Read more about the program in the 2004/05-2008/09 science strategy.


This page was last modified on 24 March 2004.