Antarctic and climate change

We are New Zealand's top academic institution for Antarctic and climate change research and are a world leader in this vital field.

Globally recognised for their expertise, many of our researchers have served as lead authors for the International Panel on Climate Change and played leadership roles on the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research and World Climate Research Programme. Our scientists regularly advise the business sector and government agencies such as the Ministry for the Environment and the Treasury on climate change issues, and provide analysis and commentary for media.

Contributing to climate science understanding

The University's climate science research is published in top journals such as Nature and Science and has a strong track record for securing significant external funding in a competitive environment.

Nature Index recently ranked the University's collaboration with GNS Science in the top 10 globally between academic and corporate institutions, based on the number of articles published in highly selective science journals and the share of authorship on each. The Index is an key indicator of global high-quality research output.

Many of our researchers have received prestigious awards and fellowships, including four Rutherford Discovery Fellowships and a James Cook Research Fellowship from the Royal Society Te Apārangi, two Marsden Medals from the New Zealand Association of Scientists and a Blake Leader Award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Much of their work is conducted in our School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Antarctic Research Centre and New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, which is ranked as one of the world’s top 50 environment policy think tanks in the latest Global Go To Think Tank Index Report.

Collaboration at Victoria University of Wellington

Climate change and its effects—including melting polar ice sheets and sea ice, rising sea levels, extreme weather events and ocean acidification—are also a research focus throughout other parts of the University, including ecosystem and renewable energy research in the Wellington Faculty of Science, policy research in the Faculty of Law and Wellington School of Business and Government, and sustainability and resilience-related research within the Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation.

Climate change is the challenge of our time and our researchers are working to provide unbiased scientific information to industry, organisations, policymakers and the public. The study of climate change draws experts from across the University, linking Antarctic scientists and climate researchers with experts in law, architecture and psychology.

Wellington School of Business and Government is also home to what is thought to be the world’s first professorial Chair in the Economics of Disasters and we also play a leading role in the government’s climate change-focused Deep South National Science Challenge.

In 2017 we were the first New Zealand university to sign up to an international initiative where we affirmed our commitment to undertake research into challenges specifically related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

In early 2018 we also co-hosted a highly successful second Pacific Climate Change Conference with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Antarctic Research Centre

Our Antarctic Research Centre has a 60-year history of investigating the Antarctic ice sheet and its response to climate change, with staff and students from the centre visiting Antarctica annually.

The Centre’s international collaborators include the British Antarctic Survey, the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Harvard University in the United States.

In New Zealand, we work with the University of Otago, University of Canterbury, Antarctica New Zealand, NIWA and GNS Science, among others. With Professor Andrew Mackintosh as Director, the Antarctic Research Centre supports a diverse range of climate-related inquiry, including sediment and ice-core drilling and physics-based investigations such as the numerical modelling of glaciers and ice sheets.

New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute

Our New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute was established in 2008 to develop interdisciplinary research into all aspects of climate change. Under its Director, Professor of Climate Change David Frame, its research has been published many times in the world’s leading scientific journals, and it contributes extensively to public and policy debates internationally and in New Zealand.

Collaborators include the Met Office and University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and Berkeley Lab in the United States.

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Master of Environmental Studies

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Environmental study

Antarctic and climate change stories

Ross Sea expedition

Researchers gained the highest-ever recovery rate from a deep drill core to gain pristine geological records of oceanographic change over several million years.

Snowline survey

Climate scientists and glaciologists take to the skies to find out how New Zealand’s glaciers are faring following summer’s record-breaking warmth.