Germany and New Zealand team up for Antarctic science

MOA signing
4 May 2024

Antarctic science has received a boost after New Zealand and Germany signed a new deal to foster more scientific cooperation on the ice.

Antarctica New Zealand and Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute came together in Auckland on Saturday to sign the Memoranding of Arrangement.

It was witnessed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was in New Zealand on an official visit.

“Antarctica is of increasing geostrategic and scientific interest, and this arrangement will broaden connections between our marine and polar science institutes,” Minister Peters said.

The two programmes have already worked together on a number of science collaborations that contribute to a better understanding of how Antarctica will respond to climate change.

The high profile SWAIS 2C drilling project is one of those. It aims to reveal the sensitivity of the Ross Ice Shelf and West Antarctic Ice Sheet to past warming to see how they will respond in the future.

Sea ice is another area the programmes have worked together on recently. This science includes flying a specialised instrument below an aircraft to measure the sea ice thickness, and snow on top, to get a better understanding of how it will respond in a warming world.

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Scientific Advisor Jordy Hendrikx says this is an excellent opportunity to build on Aotearoa’s international collaborations with other programmes.

“This memorandum will facilitate even more excellent science going forward, playing a critical role in understanding how climate change will impact Antarctica and the rest of the planet.”

In the future, this includes closer collaboration with Germany and other international partners as part of the Antarctica International Science & Infrastructure for Synchronous Observation (Antarctica InSync) project, which will further our understanding of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

The memorandum was signed by Alfred Wegener Institute’s Prof. Markus Rex and Antarctica New Zealand’s Corporate Services general manager Peter Smith.

Flight delays unfortunately meant chief executive Sarah Williamson and Prof. Hendrikx were unable to make it, after attending the annual bilateral meeting with the National Science Foundation in the United States.

Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute’s Prof. Markus Rex and Antarctica New Zealand’s Corporate Services general manager Peter Smith after signing the Memorandum of Arrangement. Photo: German Embassy in Wellington