Positive News For Antarctic Sea Ice

The AUV SeaBED robot under the Antarctic sea ice (Photo : WHOI).

The AUV SeaBED robot under the Antarctic sea ice (Photo : WHOI).

A new robotic study conducted by a coalition of scientist from the United Kingdom, Australia and United States has shown that the Antarctic sea ice is thicker than previously thought.

The SeaBED autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has allowed for more in-depth sea ice analysis than scientists have previously been able to garner from drill data measurements, ship visual measurements (that are unable to access thicker areas) and satellite images (snow cover hinders analysis of images) alone. SeaBED is able to access areas that have previously been inaccessible to researchers.

The SeaBED AUV from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is fitted with a camera that enables it to map the underside of the sea ice. Maps were made of three regions of the continent; Weddell, Bellingshausen, and the Wilkes Land. The robot covered an area of 500,000 square metres, the size of 100 football pitches.

Scientist found that the sea ice has an average thickness of between 1.4 meters and 5.5 meters, with some areas having a maximum ice thickness of 17 meters. 76 percent of the ice that was mapped was found to be deformed, this suggests that over the winter period the ice floes repeatedly collided to create a large denser body of ice (“This is in contrast to what scientists previously understood from the Arctic, where larger sections of sea ice, under constant pressure, produce longer linear ‘ridge’ features.“).

Dr. Guy Williams from Institute of Antarctic and Marine Studies adds (co-author on the paper) adds that: