Antarctica’s disintegrating ice shelves

Antarctica, sea level rise and the research of Professor Tim Naish are the focus of the second film and podcast in the Water—Rapuhia, kimihia: Quest for knowledge documentary series.

Antarctica contains an enormous amount of the world’s fresh water, 90 percent of it is ice and if it all melted it could raise sea level by 60 metres, says Professor Tim Naish in the second episode of Water—Rapuhia, kimihia: Quest for knowledge.

Naish, who is in Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre, has seen ice shelves the size of the Canterbury region disappear in two months.

“They don’t just melt,” he says. “They explode, they disintegrate.”

In this film and accompanying podcast, we learn that Naish didn’t want to go to Antarctica to study as a postgraduate student – he thought it would be a tough place to do research. These days he knows the real challenge lies in understanding how what happens in Antarctica will impact sea level rise worldwide and then convincing the international community of the necessity to act.

While his colleague Associate Professor Nick Golledge heads to Antarctica to gather up-to-the-minute data, we follow Professor Naish to Whitehall, London, to present his findings to an international audience.

Antarctica is a place of superlatives, he says.

Tim Naish is in Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre. Photo: Supplied/Victoria University of Wellington

“It’s the coldest, highest, driest, windiest, remotest, most pristine continent on earth. Antarctica both responds to climate change, but creates and amplifies climate change. It has done this over millions of years. It is responding to climate change now and these changes will continue into the future with devastating impacts for humanity.

“We had a bit more time when the scientists first started talking about this, but no one was listening. They’re now listening and it’s critical.”

Watch and listen to other episodes: 

Episode 1: Fresh Water and accompanying podcast featuring Dr Mike Joy – available now. 

Episode 3: Rights & Responsibilities and accompanying podcast featuring Professor Catherine Iorns – available now.

*Made with the help of NZ On Air*

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