Rob Wooding said that resupplying Australia’s Mawson Station — the longest continuously operated outpost in Antarctica — relied on access to a bay, a task increasingly complicated by sea ice blocking the way.
“We are noticing that the sea ice situation is becoming more difficult,” Wooding told a media briefing on Monday ahead of two days of meetings between top Antarctic science and logistics experts in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.
Wooding said that at Mawson, the ice typically only breaks up for one or two months of the summer, but in the last four to six years this has not happened every year, and some years only partially.
“In the 2013-4 season we couldn’t get anywhere near Mawson due to the sea ice and we had to get fuel in there by helicopter which is inadequate for the long-term sustainability of the station,” he said, adding that the French and Japanese had similar problems.
Wooding said Australia had not yet come close to shutting down a base because of sea ice, but had to look at “unusual measures” to keep operating.
Tony Worby, from an Australian centre studying Antarctic climate and ecosystems, said that in contrast to the Arctic where global warming is causing ice to melt and glaciers to shrink, sea ice around Antarctica was increasing.