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International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE)

helicopter ice drop

ITASE (International Trans Antarctic Scientific Expedition) is a 20-nation scientific programme that has been making multiple traverses of the Antarctic continent to collect information about the variability of a wide range of environmental / climate indicators.

Due to the remote location and difficulty of access, Antarctica has very few instrumental records of its climate, unlike the highly populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere. On the other hand, because of its pristine isolation, it is an ideal environment in which to monitor changes in the global climate. Therefore the aim of ITASE is to build a continent-wide database of factors relating to the climate over the last 200 years (and going back as far as 1000 years in places).

The NZ contribution to ITASE concentrates on ice core drilling at coastal sites alongside the Transantarctic Mountains in the Ross Sea area. These cores are of intermediate length (<500 m), mainly from low elevation, local ice domes. The sites have been chosen on the basis of their sensitivity to different climate drivers and the synthesis of all records will help to examine their individual influence and variability. This work has already shown that the El Niño Southern Oscillation governs temperature variability in the Ross Sea region.

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