The Deep South drives New Zealand’s future

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One of the biggest drivers of New Zealand's climate is the influence of ocean currents and climate systems in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Even relatively subtle changes could have dramatic impacts on our climate and ability to work and live as we do.

"From New Zealand, it can be hard to get your head around how changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean can affect our everyday lives, thousands of miles away," said NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan.

"Minister Joyce noted during the announcement of the National Science Challenges that the potential impacts of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are tremendous, both on New Zealand and global climate systems, and this was highlighted in the submissions for the Challenges."

"What's so pleasing about the Challenges is that collaboration to align and focus our research has already led to new understanding and will certainly have a positive impact on New Zealand's future."

"NIWA, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, works closely with a range of national and international collaborators – including Antarctica New Zealand, Land Information New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Australian Antarctic Division – on research in the Southern Ocean. This highly collaborative and multidisciplinary work – covering climate, oceanography, fisheries and biodiversity science – is also supported by NIWA investing core funding to supplement funding contributed by our partners."

"The 'Deep South' Challenge also recognises the huge role New Zealand science already plays, and will continue to play, in global understanding of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and climate change. We are committed to maintaining this momentum."

NIWA already commits $2 million to research and science aimed at improving our understanding of the influence Antarctica and the Southern Ocean through a range of research programmes. They include:

  1. Observing, analysing and documenting the climate of New Zealand, the SW Pacific, Southern Oceans and Antarctica – past and present.
  2. Looking at how the dynamics of the climate system influences atmosphere, ocean, ice and hydrosphere conditions in our region and the causes of that change.
  3. Looking at present and future vulnerability, impacts and adaptation options to climate variability in New Zealand, the SW Pacific, Southern Oceans and Antarctica.

Mr Morgan reiterated the need for New Zealand to develop a National Oceans Policy, not only to sustainably manage and use its extensive marine resources to boost the economy, but also to better understand the impact of the oceans on our climate.

"The inclusion of the challenge - 'The Deep South – understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment' - is an important step in the right direction for our nation."

 

For information about the National Science Challenges see the MBIE announcement and the Report of the National Science Challenges Panel.

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Composite image of Antarctica in global context. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio nasaimages.org)

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NIWA's Mike Williams (Left) and Gideon Geerling from Antarctica NZ, Field Support investigating icebergs in McMurdo Sound. Photo taken by Craig Stewart during 2011.

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NIWA’s deepwater research vessel RV Tangaroa during one of its ten voyages to Antarctica. [NIWA]