Chinese sat-snaps to help boffins forecast Antarctic sea ice

Glacier slips strand ships

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One of the thornier problems to beset Antarctic researchers is threading or punching a ship through sea ice, so Australia wants to tap China for better sea ice forecasts.

Predicting sea ice conditions is an almost-untouched discipline, but it's becoming important, with more countries taking an interest in the icy continent (and a regular fleet of tourist vessels plying the waters of the far southern ocean).

The memorandum of understanding, between the Australian Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and China's National Marine Environment Forecasting Center, will give Australia access to Chinese satellite imagery.

In a canned announcement, ACE CRC's acting CEO Mark Kelleher said a primary aim of the research is “to develop scientific methods for forecasting sea ice conditions”.

Even icebreakers can get stuck on their trips to resupply Antarctic research stations: last year was a record year for sea ice, the ABC reports, and passengers and crew on a Russian ship had to be rescued by a Chinese helicopter and transported to Hobart by Australia's Aurora Australis.

China will contribute environmental forecasting and remote sensing to the partnership, which the ACE CRC hopes to enhance with its field experience.

“We believe this partnership places us in a strong position to take a lead in developing the models and techniques required to provide reliable sea ice forecasting to aid Antarctic shipping“, Kelleher said. ®

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