Surveyors head south to measure climate change impacts in Antarctic

14 November 2018

Extreme wind and cold will be among the challenges facing surveyors from Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), who head to the Antarctic today.

Three LINZ staff and one scientist from the Finnish Land and Survey agency are loaded up with 500 kg of gear for three weeks of measuring and monitoring. The team follows in the footsteps of New Zealand’s earliest surveyors who accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and other pioneering expeditions to the icy continent.

National Geodesist and team leader Matt Amos says monitoring around historic huts used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Hillary will help identify threats, such as sea level rise, to the heritage structures. 

“These huts have been preserved in their original state for future generations to explore and learn from so it’s vital we ensure they continue to stand on safe ground.”

Using continuous tide gauges and global navigation satellite system (known as GNSS) observations, the team will provide valuable data to show any sea level change and how this might impact on infrastructure.

The team will also use an absolute gravimeter to measure changes in the earth’s gravity field. Results will help establish a global benchmark for measuring the earth’s movement and related sea level changes that might be occurring as a result of climate change.

“Antarctica and the Arctic are both important indicators of changes to the world’s climate, and the more we know about them, the better we can understand the effects that sea level rise has on all of us,” says Matt.

In detail

From 14 November to 5 December, LINZ staff will be on a mission to carry out the following work:

  • Calibration of tide gauges at Scott Base and Cape Roberts.
  • Monitoring surveys of huts at Cape Evans, Cape Royds, Hut Point and Pram Point.
  • Absolute gravity measurements at Scott Base, Crater Hill and McMurdo Station (with the Finnish Land Survey).
  • Monitoring survey of Crater Hill wind farm.
  • Maintaining continuous GNSS receivers that track tectonic motions.

The Scott Base tide gauge is the longest running gauge in Antarctica - tide information has been recorded there since 1957 - and the Cape Roberts tide gauge has been in place since 1990. Both provide many years of tide and sea level record - vital to monitor longer-term change.

LINZ and its predecessor organisations have been involved in Antarctica since the 1950s.

LINZ holds a field book used by Sir Wally Herbert – once described as “the greatest polar explorer of our time” – and records from Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition. Read more about these explorers.

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