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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 21 June 2007

Dr Mike Williams from NIWA explains the significance of studying McMurdo Sound in Antarctica and why this environment is like a natural laboratory to the scientists.


Our climate in New Zealand is not just affected by what happens in New Zealand - it’s affected by what happens in the Southern Hemisphere, and in the whole globe to an extent. And the polar regions, and Antarctica in particular, are key drivers for some of the climate processes that govern the whole globe.

Originally when we were working in McMurdo Sound, we were just trying to understand McMurdo Sound, and how sea ice grows in McMurdo Sound, and how McMurdo Sound can be used as a natural laboratory for us to undertake experiments that we can then generalise to the rest of Antarctica. So to understand our laboratory we have to measure it and go back and look at it again and again and again to make sure we understand what our lab is doing.

And it was in trying to understand that lab that we noticed that there were changes between the years that B15 blocked the entrance to McMurdo Sound and the years prior to that. So that sort of forced us to say, well, what’s made those changes, and then how relevant is, is all the other experiments we’ve - that we’ve undertaken while B15 has been there.