Scientists are struggling to stage expeditions to the South Pole because Antarctica’s sea ice has been growing rapidly and hit record high levels.
The UK Guardian reports 50 scientists have gathered in Tasmania to discuss more accurate ways to predict Antarctic sea ice levels so researchers don’t get stuck in ice pack when traveling southward.
“It’s quite hard to forecast but whatever effort we put into improving our ability to forecast sea ice will ultimately pay dividends in terms of savings for national programs,” Tony Worby, head of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, told the Guardian.
Last year, ships “couldn’t get anywhere near” the Australian Antarctic Division’s research site on Antarctica, reports The Guardian.
The Russian research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in an ice pack on Christmas Eve 2013 with 52 passengers aboard on its way to show how global warming was impacting Antarctica. After about a week of being stuck on the ice, an Australian icebreaker was sent to rescue them — that ice breaker then became temporarily stuck itself in the Antarctic ice pack.
Incidents such as this have become increasingly common for those looking to study conduct research on the South Pole. Australian scientist Ron Wooding told the Guardian it’s “inadequate for the long-term sustainability of the station.”
“Other national programs have had similar problems, the French in particular, the Japanese also,” Wooding added.
Antarctic sea ice levels have defied climate model predictions, baffling scientists and reigniting a debate over global warming’s influence on sea ice. In April, sea ice extent reached record levels for the month — a whopping 116,000 square miles higher than the previous record set in 2014.
Scientists are still unsure why Antarctic sea ice levels are growing, while the Arctic has seen levels decrease in the past few decades. Worby told the Guardian rising sea ice levels are “very largely driven by changes in wind.”
“Those changes of wind are driven by the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere and the increasing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere,” he said.