International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition

ITASE is a project that aims to work collaboratively with other nations to collect and interpret research related to Antarctica.


ITASE (International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition) is a SCAR (Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research) approved programme and has as its primary aim “the collection and interpretation of a continent-wide array of environmental parameters, assembled through the coordinated efforts of scientists from 20 nations” (Mayewski 2006, PAGES, vol.14, no.1,26-28).

The New Zealand contribution to ITASE concentrates on coastal sites, predominantly from low elevation, local ice domes.

Mid-latitude Southern Hemisphere climate is particularly sensitive to changes in the position and strength of the circumpolar westerlies, which are dependent on the relative input of Antarctic air masses. Antarctic atmospheric circulation on inter-annual to decadal timescales is dominated by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Southern Annular Mode or Antarctic Oscillation (SAM) and Antarctic Circumpolar Wave (ACW), but their hierarchy of importance is controversial. While some researchers suggest SAM as the driving forcing of the regions climate, others argue that the ACW is dominating the continent’s climatic regime.

In contrast, we have demonstrated from coastal ice cores in McMurdo Sound that ENSO governs temperature variability in the Ross Sea region. Meteorological observations are too short and sparse to resolve this uncertainty. In order to quantify the relative importance of each of these oscillations on the climate of the mid to high latitudes and their tele-connections, high-resolution climate proxies are required.

We study intermediate length (<500 m) ice cores from the Ross Sea region. The sites have been chosen on their basis of their sensitivity to different climate drivers and the synthesis of all records will help to examine their individual influence and variability.

Ground penetrating radar is used to map bedrock topography, ice thickness, and internal flow structures. Then ~4 m deep snow pits are sampled with high resolution (1 cm) and intermediate depth ice cores are recovered.


Through our participation with ITASE we have entered a formal collaboration with 19 other nations.

For more information see the ITASE website.

Antarctic Research Centre staff

Nancy Bertler is the New Zealand representative for ITASE. She is also the coordinator of the ITASE Chemistry Synthesis Group.