18.2 C
Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

CSIRO voyage gets up close to Antarctica’s climate challenges

Latest News

Mullumbimby railway station burns down

At around midnight last night, a fire started which engulfed the old Mullumbimby railway station. It's been twenty years since the last train came through, but the building has been an important community hub, providing office space for a number of organisations, including COREM, Mullum Music Festival and Social Futures.

Other News


It is, at best, amusing, but mostly disappointing, to see The Echo reporting on the mayoral minute to Council...

D-day for Bruns pod village pesticide treatment

After two delays, the NSW Reconstruction Authority (RA) will be treating Bruns emergency pods with a pesticide treatment, despite some strong opposition from flood-affected residents.

Free healthy lifestyle program for families

Go4Fun is a free 10-week after-school program for children aged 7-13 and their families, which aims to support their health and wellbeing.

A festival in laneways

Mullumbimby, a town known for its abundance of artists and creatives with a passion for what drives them, is set to host the much-anticipated Laneways Festival 2024 on May 4 and 5.

Editorial – What are the people doing in your neighbourhood?

If you are stuck for something to do this Thursday, why not take part in local democracy?

Getting ready for the 24/25 bush fire season

With this year’s official NSW Bush Fire Danger Period closing on March 21, our thoughts are now turned toward to 2024-25 season and Essential Energy has begun surveying its powerlines in and around the North Coast region.

RV Investigator. Photo CSIRO

Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

The rapidly changing nature of Antarctica has been witnessed first-hand by Australia’s leading research ship on a record-breaking investigation of the icy continent.

On its 12,000km journey, RV Investigator’s complement of 39 research scientists undertook extensive studies of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic atmosphere.

There, they inspected the impact of warming waters on the massive Antarctic ice sheet as well as other chemical, physical and biological effects in the Southern Ocean.

But recently reported shifts in Antarctica’s ice systems were also observed, says the voyage’s co-chief scientist Steve Rintoul, from the CSIRO.

“It’s just as well we weren’t setting out to measure sea ice because there wasn’t much to find,” Rintoul told Cosmos.

“The ship was able to get up onto the continental shelf in Antarctica in a place we’ve never been in a non-icebreaking ship.

“It’s fair to say I think that most Antarctic scientists are pretty stunned by a number of recent changes.”

It’s not just sea ice. Rintoul says short-term weather changes have also drawn concern: “Temperature anomalies of 38 degrees – it wasn’t 38°C, it was 38°C warmer than it should have been at that time – the largest temperature anomaly ever recorded on Earth.”

This map shows the locations of vulnerable areas in East Antarctica: Wilkes Subglacial Basin, Totten Glacier, and Denman Glacier. Image A Gautier/NSIDC

Once thought to be quite resilient to the effects of climate change compared to West Antarctica, scientists are increasingly concerned the massive amounts of carbon and heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans will push East Antarctica to faster melting rates.

East Antarctica’s ice sheet and ice shells were previously considered too isolated from warm waters, to be at risk of changes in ocean systems.

But now, Rintoul says the CSIRO and Australian Antarctic Program Partnership have data to show that’s not the case anymore.

That includes the infiltration of more warm water into the region’s glaciers. Some, like the Totten Glacier, could contribute 3.5m to global sea level rise once fully melted.

“It’s about half of Greenland, it’s only one glacier, but it’s a big one,” Rintoul says.

“We’ve also, last year, found some warm water entering the Denman glacier, which holds another 1.5m of sea level rise equivalent and drains the same part of East Antarctica.

“What we find is warm waters getting there – not as much warm water as in West Antarctica – but in a sense, there’s more capacity for it to get worse.”

Melting water also contributes to shifts in ocean circulation processes responsible for transporting nutrients and shaping ocean ecosystems around the planet. Multiple reports of these systems slowing down have been reported in recent years.

As a major carbon sponge, absorbing 90% of global heat and carbon, the ocean is a vital but limited buffer against climate change. The Southern Ocean absorbs more carbon than any other region, but it’s capacity to do so may have a ceiling.

The CSIRO is hopeful the last 60 days of data collection from the RV Investigator will help flesh out the impacts of increased carbon absorption on these systems.

“Part of this voyage was motivated by tracking that evolving inventory of extra heat and extra carbon that’s piling up in the oceans,” Rintoul says.

“One of the reasons we need to do that is that there’s some evidence that that current pattern is sensitive itself to climate and so the Southern Ocean may take up less heat and carbon in the future, and that would act as a positive feedback to climate change.”

This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Matthew Ward Agius. Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.

Published by The Echo in conjunction with Cosmos Magazine.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


    • Barrow, did you miss the bit about the lack of sea ice – ““It’s just as well we weren’t setting out to measure sea ice because there wasn’t much to find,” Rintoul told Cosmos.”.???

        • My response is not making site..
          So one more chance to post my last
          Comments.. you know democracy !
          I disagree with what you say
          But will defend you with my life
          For you to post your comments ?

          • So you want to ‘disagree’ with the fact of RV Investigator’s experience of lack of sea ice.
            No wonder you got blocked.

        • Barrow is probably caught up with his romance with past Antarctica, where there was boundless sea ice no matter which direction of viewing and so he didn’t bother with the ‘details’of RV Investigator’s recent journey. But ‘details’ do matter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Flood insurance inquiry’s North Coast hearings 

A public hearing into insurers’ responses to the 2022 flood was held in Lismore last Thursday, with one local insurance brokerage business owner describing the compact that exists between insurers and society as ‘broken’. 

Getting ready for the 24/25 bush fire season

With this year’s official NSW Bush Fire Danger Period closing on March 21, our thoughts are now turned toward to 2024-25 season and Essential Energy has begun surveying its powerlines in and around the North Coast region.

Keeping watch on Tyalgum Road

Residents keen to stay up to date on the status of the temporary track at Tyalgum Road – particularly during significant rain events – are urged to sign up to a new SMS alert system launched by Tweed Shire Council.

Blaming Queensland again

I was astounded to read Mandy Nolan’s article ‘Why The Nude Beach Is A Wicked Problem’, in which she implied that it may largely...