Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment

Sea ice is a central part of the Antarctic cryosphere – that part of the Earth where water appears in its solid form, as ice. Sea ice strongly influences global climate through a number of important feedback mechanisms. It is also expected to respond sensitively to global warming.

Significant changes in the extent of sea ice have already occurred, or are likely, in a warmer environment. These changes are expected to continue throughout the 21st Century. By improving our understanding of the sea ice environment we can better predict how these changes could impact the Earth system.

Our research will provide data:

  • to measure differences in sea ice over scales of metres to hundreds of kilometres – this will improve the accuracy of sea ice thickness estimates
  • improve our understanding of the role of sea ice as a habitat for a range of animals from algae to larger predators
  • to identify how biological primary and secondary production is affected by winter sea ice extent and properties, and by ocean circulation
  • to assess the sensitivity of krill populations to potential changes in sea ice extent

Data will be collected by:

  • A dedicated marine science voyage in 2007
  • Aircraft-based instruments to expand our survey area beyond the ship's tracks
  • Oceanographic measurements of conductivity and temperature of the sea water
  • Autonomous underwater vehicles operating under the sea ice will look at distribution of:
    • sea ice thickness
    • sea ice algae
    • krill

Related links:

  • Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment - article from Issue 14, Australian Antarctic Magazine
    During this major International Polar Year project, scientists studied the physics and biology of the sea ice, and the effects of sea ice structure, thickness and snow cover on the under-ice algae and ecosystem of the Southern Ocean.
  • SIPEX voyage site - reports provided daily from the Aurora Australis during Voyage 1, 2007
  • Getting the measure of sea ice (Australian Antarctic Magazine 12: 10, 2007)
    Scientists will measure physical and biological sea ice properties to understand the impact of changes in sea ice thickness and distribution as a result of climate change.
This page was last modified on 22 November 2007.