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Australian Antarctic research to steam ahead in 2016

A resupply mission to Mawson base has been diverted due to thick sea ice conditions."

Antarctica is one of the most important locations on Earth for research, being the last largely untouched landmass. The massive ice fields, craggy mountain peaks and frozen seas are free of industrial operations and commercial developments, with small research bases being the only human presence.

These research locations, such as Casey, Mawson, Davis and Macquarie are home to a rotation of researchers throughout the year, who monitor weather conditions, study the sea and keep tabs on wildlife.

Australia is set to steam ahead with new research programs.

In the coming 2016 Antarctic season, Australia is set to steam ahead with new research programs, and carry out the necessary supply runs from Tasmania to keep the bases fuelled and going strong. Much of this summer work is in preparation for the next winter.

A summer of research

While there are a number of research programs undertaken throughout summer, one of the most important upcoming programs is a cloud study.

Australian Antarctic Division atmospheric scientist, Dr Simon Alexander, explained that climate models in the Southern Hemisphere are often impacted by a lack of suitable cloud data. This means that it's then harder for the models to show accurate weather representations and forecasts. What's more, it's also difficult to show ocean currents in the region and sea ice formation.

Dr Alexander said that while there's a substantial focus on Arctic research, the southern latitudes are a different environment altogether, which means the results from up north can't be utilised.

"One of the key unknowns in the Southern Ocean region is the occurrence of super-cooled water clouds, which remain as liquid water despite being at sub-zero temperatures," he explained. "To address this and other knowledge gaps, we have established an international collaborative project to characterise clouds present above the Southern Ocean, so that we can validate satellite measurements and improve climate models."

The program is set to go ahead next year in March on Macquarie Island, and it will run for a full year. Then, a few years down the track, the experiments will be repeated at Davis (directly on the mainland).

"We will compare how models represent these distributions with our observations to understand the discrepancies."

This program is certain to provide valuable data for years to come, and will likely help to make supply runs to the stations far easier.

Antarctic research is set to steam ahead.Antarctic research is set to steam ahead.

In the thick of it

Australian Antarctic research bases are currently stuck in winter, and the researchers choosing to remain throughout this period are hunkered down in the various bases across the continent.

In fact, the crews have just recently passed midwinter, a time without sunlight and freezing temperatures many won't be used to.

They won't be there alone for long, however, as the Australian resupply vessel will head down to the continent as soon as the sea ice starts to subside during summer. This vessel brings food, experiments and new researchers, which means the existing personnel can rotate out. Usually, a helicopter is also transported down to assist with air lifts and setting up experiments.

The coming year is sure to be an exciting one for Antarctic research, and the climate models will prove invaluable over the next few years. Across the continent, other crews will start pouring into research bases, bringing new experiments, equipment and personnel.

In just one example, the South Pole Telescope will be used to help photograph the event horizon of the black hole at the centre of the galaxy.

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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