The Antarctic spring of 2012 sees the culmination of years of preparation for the ACE CRC sea-ice group in Hobart (Australia), who will lead an international multi-disciplinary sea ice voyage to East Antarctica. More than 50 scientists from eight countries departed Hobart (Australia) on September 14 aboard the Australian research and supply vessel Aurora Australis. They will conduct the Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment (SIPEX-2), a seven-week voyage into the sea-ice zone to be jointly coordinated by ACE CRC and the Australian Antarctic Division.
The purpose of SIPEX-2 is to investigate relationships between the physical sea-ice environment, marine biogeochemistry and the structure of Southern Ocean ecosystems. While the scientists and crew will not set foot on terra firma, about 10 multi-day research stations will be set up on suitable sea ice floes. Research will be conducted at about 100-120° East, the region off Law Dome and to the east of Australia's Casey Station. Work will begin at the sea-ice edge and the aim will be to penetrate the pack ice towards the coastal land-fast sea ice. The resulting data will enhance scientists' capability to detect climate change and assess its impacts on ecosystem function in the ice-covered Southern Ocean.
SIPEX-2 will also be a GEOTRACES Process Study. Antarctic sea ice is known to store key micronutrients, such as iron as well as a suite of less studied trace metals in winter, which are rapidly released in spring. This stimulates ice edge phytoplankton blooms which drive the biological removal of climatically-important gases like carbon dioxide. By linking the distribution of iron and other trace elements to the cycles of carbon, nitrogen and silicon in the sea ice zone in spring, this project will identify their biogeochemical roles in the seasonal ice zone and how this may change with predicted climate-driven perturbations. Samples will be collected for laboratory trace elemental analysis in both sea ice cores and in the underlying water column using specialised GEOTRACES sampling techniques.
Anthony Worby (Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre), Klaus Meiners (Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre)
GEOTRACES -Trace elements and their isotopes in the water column