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Associate Professor

Photo of Associate Professor Inga Smith.

Room 512
Phone numbers
7755 (Office)
64 3 479 7755 (Office Direct Dial)
Research Group

Download the vCard for Associate Professor Inga Smith


My research focus is ice-ocean interactions, particularly using high precision and high accuracy stable isotope and supercooling measurements to investigate critical thresholds for sea ice survival under warmer and higher CO2 conditions. I completed a University of Otago PhD on platelet ice formation in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica and followed this with two years as a postdoc at the University of East Anglia, researching the physical oceanography of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Since returning to New Zealand, I also lead a research team investigating greenhouse gas emissions from international transport, and been involved with research into energy use in buildings. I collaborate widely with modellers, observationalists, and remote sensing researchers from with Otago, New Zealand universities (especially the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington) and CRIs (NIWA and Callaghan Innovation), and internationally (particularly the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Washington). Potential MSc or PhD students are welcome to contact me about potential ice, oceans, or energy-related projects.

Antarctic ice-ocean interactions

Sea ice is a crucial climate system component, influencing Earth's radiation budget, controlling ocean-atmosphere heat and mass exchange, and driving deep ocean convection. In the Arctic, sea ice extent and thickness have been dramatically declining. In Antarctica, sea ice extent has been increasing in some areas, and decreasing in others, and there is a lack of thickness data. The overall aim of my research is to understand how Antarctic sea ice will change over the next century. Are there critical thresholds (“tipping points”) for Antarctic sea ice survival that will be crossed in the warmer and higher CO2 world of the future? My team will address this question through ice-ocean interactions research, particularly looking at the influence of ice shelf basal melting on sea ice properties. If you are enthusiastic about joining our team to do an MSc or PhD, and you have excellent marks and love cold places, please look at the potential research areas below and get in touch.

Potential MSc/PhD areas:

  • Sea ice formation processes: Arctic and Antarctic intercomparisons
  • Antarctic sea ice melting processes
  • Supercooling measurement and modelling

Physical oceanography

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the strong, deep current encircling Antarctica that links the world's ocean basins. The ACC and its constituent fronts evolved over the last ~34 million years, and its transport of deep and surface waters has implications for sea ice extent and other polar ocean processes. If you are enthusiastic about joining our team to do an MSc or PhD, and you have excellent marks and love the ocean, please look at the potential research areas below and get in touch.

Potential MSc/PhD areas:

  • Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) relationships with sea ice extent
  • ACC and topographic steering
  • Ice shelf cavity processes

Find out more about my research.

Current teaching

Course Coordinator

  • PHSI 426 Fluids, Instability and Transport Phenomena


Wongpan, P., Hughes, K. G., Langhorne, P. J., & Smith, I. J. (2018). Brine convection, temperature fluctuations, and permeability in winter Antarctic land‐fast sea ice. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 123(1), 216-230. doi: 10.1002/2017JC012999

Smith, I. J., Eicken, H., Mahoney, A. R., Van Hale, R., Gough, A. J., Fukamachi, Y., & Jones, J. (2016). Surface water mass composition changes captured by cores of Arctic land-fast sea ice. Continental Shelf Research, 118, 154-164. doi: 10.1016/j.csr.2016.02.008

Pauling, A. G., Bitz, C. M., Smith, I. J., & Langhorne, P. J. (2016). The response of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic sea ice to fresh water from ice shelves in an earth system model. Journal of Climate, 29, 1655-1672. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0501.1

Smith, I. J., Gough, A. J., Langhorne, P. J., Mahoney, A. R., Leonard, G. H., Van Hale, R., Jendersie, S., & Haskell, T. G. (2015). First-year land-fast Antarctic sea ice as an archive of ice shelf meltwater fluxes. Cold Regions Science & Technology, 113, 63-70. doi: 10.1016/j.coldregions.2015.01.007

Langhorne, P. J., Hughes, K. G., Gough, A. J., Smith, I. J., Williams, M. J. M., Robinson, N. J., … Leonard, G. H., … Haskell, T. G. (2015). Observed platelet ice distributions in Antarctic sea ice: An index for ocean-ice shelf heat flux. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(13), 5442-5451. doi: 10.1002/2015GL064508

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