ANZICE Part 1: An Overview

By Matthew Wood 13/05/2010 1

It is ironic that a science initiative called ANZICE should be concerned with investigating times in our geological past when there was relatively little of the cold, slippery stuff around.

The Antarctica — New Zealand Interglacial Climate Extremes program, currently underway at the Antarctic Research Centre, is aimed at better understanding the relationships between Antarctica, New Zealand and global climate. By reconstructing environmental responses to episodes of past warmth, regional climate models can be developed. Peak warm periods (interglacials) such as Marine Isotope Stage 5e (~125,000 years ago), when atmospheric and surface ocean temperatures were up to 3°C warmer than today, are important analogs for the climatic conditions predicted for the next century by the IPCC.


The general public and media do not necessarily appreciate the complexities of this science and so it needs to be translated into an easily digestible form. It is particularly important to be able to communicate the results to those who will ultimately make the decisions about how we manage our environment in the future. By understanding past climate, ANZICE will be well-placed to advise policy makers on what changes to expect in the New Zealand — Antarctic region in a warmer world of the future.

ANZICE comprises three research streams:

  • Antarctic Climate Drivers
  • Southern Ocean — New Zealand Responses
  • Climate Modeling

High-resolution ice cores from Antarctic coastal glacier sites are expected to document the Holocene Climatic Optimum by atmospheric gases, isotopes of water, major and trace elements, dust, and various compounds. Marine plankton, such as foraminifera, preserved in seafloor sediments provide valuable climate-related elemental and isotopic information in their sand-sized shells. The environmental response of terrestrial New Zealand can be gauged by studying lake sediments. These disparate environmental data, combined with the dynamics of temperate glaciers here in New Zealand, are used to generate empirical and computer-based climate models. These models are currently being fine-tuned, but are already proving to be extremely powerful scientific tools.

The program is funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, and is closely tied to the FRST-funded Global Change Through Time programme at GNS Science and the ice core gas analysis group at NIWA. Collaboration within the research centre, and between the ARC and other science institutions, maintains scientific rigour and allows open-access to facilities and expertise.

Professor Lionel Carter leads the ANZICE team.

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