Experts fear Antarctic bound ships could be in danger due to unpredictable sea ice conditions

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-27 14:40:55|Editor: Song Lifang
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SYDNEY, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Experts from 12 countries across the world are meeting in the Australian city of Hobart this week to discuss ways to improve navigational services as sea ice conditions become more unpredictable in Antarctic.

Held at the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the International Ice Charting Working Group is attempting to develop best practices for the growing amount of ship traffic.

"Unpredictable sea ice conditions have created all sorts of headaches for scientific and resupply operations in Antarctica, and there is a clear need for more reliable charting and forecasting methods," Jan Lieser from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"Three years ago, we had a massive increase in sea ice extent to unprecedented levels never seen before."

"This month we are seeing record low maximums extent around Antarctica."

The lowest recorded minimum sea ice extent was observed on March 1, 2017 at 2.075 million square kilometres.

Just six months later, the lowest recorded maximum extent of 18.013 million square kilometres occurred on Sept. 12.

"It appears that both the summertime minimum and the wintertime maximum sea ice extent around Antarctica have set new record lows," Lieser said.

As the rapid change in ice is occurring, the amount of commercial ships have been increasing.

Last year, around 50 cruise vessels carried more than 35,000 passengers to the frozen continent.

"We have seen a number of private and commercial ships becoming stuck in the Antarctic sea ice in recent years, which have led to costly rescue operations that can delay scientific work," Lieser said.

Although it is not fully understood what is causing the dramatic variations overall, Lieser said fluctuations in temperature both below the surface of the water and above in the atmosphere are what's driving the changes.