Research vessel leaves for Antarctica with ‘Gachapin’ mascot to join

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Commanded by Satoshi Imura, the icebreaker ship Shirase left Aomi, Tokyo on November 11. The 64th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE-64) is heading for the Showa station in Antarctica.

For the first time, JARE embarks an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) who can dive under the thick ice of Antarctica to study the impacts of global warming. The research team will observe the shape of the underside of glaciers, seabed topography and water quality in Lützow-Holm Bay, where the Showa station is located.

We interviewed Dr. Takuji Nakamura, CEO of National Institute of Polar Researchto know the expected results of the mission.

–JARE-64 will primarily observe the Totten Glacier, one of the largest in East Antarctica. Why?

Much of Antarctica’s ice is located on the east side of the continent. It is believed that the warm water flowing under the ice quickly melts the ice sheet. However, we still don’t know how the ice will melt due to rising air and seawater temperatures, or how much of the ice will melt. We will be using a range of equipment to measure temperatures in the ocean from top to bottom. We hope to uncover one of the mysteries of global warming.

Dr. Takuji Nakamura, Director General of the National Polar Research Institute, interviewed in Tachikawa City, Tokyo (© Sankei by Nobuo Serizawa).

–What further research will be conducted?

We are also preparing to perform our third ice core drilling. Evidence of global environmental changes can be found in the thick ice of Antarctica. To date, we have analyzed past climatic conditions by unearthing ice formed 720,000 years ago. We will drill ice cores up to a million years old to examine Earth’s glacial and interglacial periods.

–What is the importance of conducting research in Antarctica?

The Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to say is to say. He says: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, the ocean and the land.” Changes in Antarctica, where 90% of Earth’s ice is located, hold the key to explaining the rise in global temperature and sea level. Examining past climates is key to envisioning the future of the Earth. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to dig into the ice of Antarctica to learn more about the Earth’s past.

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Author: Nobuo Serizawa

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