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Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research SCAR and the International Polar Year What is SCAR? SCAR was created in 1958 by the International Council for.

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Presentation on theme: "Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research SCAR and the International Polar Year What is SCAR? SCAR was created in 1958 by the International Council for."— Presentation transcript:

1 Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research SCAR and the International Polar Year What is SCAR? SCAR was created in 1958 by the International Council for Science (ICSU) to continue the coordination of Antarctic research that had begun during the International Geophysical Year of Currently SCAR has 28 Full Members, 4 Associate Members and 5 ICSU Union Members. SCARs area of interest includes Antarctica, its offshore islands, and the surrounding Southern Ocean including the Antarctic Circumpolar Current south of the Subantarctic Front. SCAR also covers Ile Amsterdam, Ile St Paul, Macquarie Island and Gough Island north of the Subantarctic Front. SCARs vision is to establish, through scientific research and international cooperation, a broad understanding of the nature of Antarctica, the role of Antarctica in the Earth System, and the effect of global change on Antarctica. SCAR's mission is to be the leading independent organization for facilitating and coordinating Antarctic research, and for identifying issues emerging from greater scientific understanding of the region that should be brought to the attention of policy makers. To fulfill its mission, SCAR aims to achieve the following main objectives: to initiate, develop, and co-ordinate high quality international scientific research in the Antarctic region, and on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system; to provide objective and independent scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and other organizations on issues of science and conservation affecting the management of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; to facilitate free and unrestricted access to Antarctic scientific data and information; to develop scientific capacity in all SCAR Members, especially with respect to younger scientists, and to promote the incorporation of Antarctic science in education at all levels; to communicate scientific information about the Antarctic region to the public. SCARS Scientific Research Programmes SCAR will focus its efforts for the next few years on five major scientific research programmes, all directed towards determining the effects of climate change on Antarctica, and on Antarcticas role in the global climate system. Funding for these programmes begins in Scientists interested in participating in these programmes should contact the relevant programme leaders. SCAR is well placed to lead these programmes as it brings together scientists from all the nations with major Antarctic research interests. SCARs Standing Scientific Groups provide a forum in which scientists can meet to plan collaborative work. SCARs links to the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programmes (COMNAP) helps to ensure appropriate logistic support. The Subglacial Antarctic Lake Environments (SALE) programme will provide exciting opportunities to examine biodiversity and evolutionary responses in the subglacial lakes that are now known to be common in Antarctica. These isolated systems are analogues for life on early Earth and on other planetary bodies. Novel responses to the environment are likely to be found in these lake systems, which are important end-members for biodiversity and polar community dynamics. The palaeoclimatic record contained in subglacial lake sediments will provide new information on climate history from the interior of the continent. Lakes are shown below as triangles, with a surface topographic view of Lake Vostok (size of Lake Ontario) from space. The Antarctica and the Global Climate System (AGCS) programme will investigate how the atmosphere and the ocean connect the climate of the Antarctic to that of the rest of the world. It will use records of atmospheric and oceanic conditions, and the climate signals held within ice cores, along with satellite data and the output of global and regional coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models, to understand how the present climate system works, and how it is affected by human activities, and to develop forecasts to 100 years in the future. It will tell us how signals of tropical and mid-latitude climate variability reach the Antarctic, and how polar climate signals are exported northwards. Fifty years ago, at the time of the International Geophysical Year, the Antarctic was considered to be rather isolated from conditions in more northerly latitudes, but more recent studies show that Antarctica is closely coupled to the global climate system. Heat arriving at the equator from the sun moves north and south towards the poles. The main sink for this heat in the Southern Hemisphere is Antarctica and its surrounding Southern Ocean; 80% of the heat is carried by the atmosphere, 20% by the ocean. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which is four times as big as the Gulf Stream, inhibits the poleward flux of heat via the ocean and so plays an important role in keeping the continent cold. Antarctica is connected to the global climate system in several ways. Warm North Atlantic Deep Water moving south at depths of metres, is balanced by the northward flow of cold Subantarctic Mode Water near the surface, Antarctic Intermediate Water further down, and Antarctic Bottom Water at the sea bed. The North Atlantic Deep Water and the Antarctic Bottom Water are major constituents of the so- called thermohaline conveyor belt that keeps the ocean oxygenated and regulates the Earths temperature. Understanding how the conveyor works globally demands that we understand ocean processes in the Antarctic. El Niño events in the tropical Pacific bring cold, dry conditions to the Antarctic Peninsula, and higher temperatures and precipitation to the coastal regions of West Antarctica. AGCS will investigate these linkages, as well as the winter season warming on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula (see temperature graph in degrees Centigrade, at upper right centre), and the disintegration of floating ice shelves. Photograph shows ice core being prepared for sampling. The Evolution and Biodiversity in the Antarctic (EBA) programme will determine how environmental change influences the properties and dynamics of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems, and predict how organisms and communities may respond to current and future environmental change. The programme integrates work on marine, terrestrial and lake ecosystems in a manner never before attempted. By comparing the outcome of parallel evolutionary processes over the range of Antarctic environments, fundamental insights can be obtained into evolution and the ways in which life responds to change, from the molecular to the whole organism level and ultimately to the level of an entire biome. Geographic isolation is a feature that makes the Antarctic an important natural laboratory for evolutionary work. The extreme nature of the physical environment allows evolutionary adaptation to be probed in rare detail. Important Antarctic discoveries such as the biosynthesis and evolution of antifreeze compounds in fish and terrestrial and lake invertebrates are now part of standard textbooks. The combination of isolation and climate change has lead to a biota rich in endemic taxa, and to a strong contrast between marine and terrestrial and lake biotas, from apparently simple ecosystems on land to highly diverse marine benthic systems on the continental shelves and in the open waters of the Southern Ocean. Warming on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula is affecting its ecosystems. Examining these changing ecosystems will contribute to an understanding of evolutionary processes relevant to all life on Earth. Modern molecular techniques will be used to date divergence times between taxa, to enable biological changes to be related to climatic or tectonic events, and to establish the patterns of gene flow into and out of the Antarctic, and the consequences for population dynamics. Work will focus on unexplored regions, such as the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas and many areas of East Antarctica, including continental nunataks and some ice-free oasis on land. Marine activities will contribute to the Circum-Antarctic Census of Marine Life, which will make a significant contribution to the International Polar Year. Results will provide a key regional input to an understanding of the Earth System, and will also address the concerns of the Antarctic Treaty System regarding the likely responses of Antarctic environments to natural and human disturbances. The Antarctic Climate Evolution (ACE) programme will investigate the ancient climate and glacial history of Antarctica. It will collect information on past climate change(e.g. via ice shelf drilling, see figure at left), and integrate it with ice sheet and climate models to identify the processes that govern Antarctic change, and those which feed this change back around the globe. It will also provide detailed case studies of past changes, against which models of future change in Antarctica can be tested. The end result will be improved forecasts of how Antarctic climate is likely to respond to future global change. Antarctica has been glaciated for some 34 million years but variations in ice sheet volume during that time have changed global sea levels by tens of meters or more, and altered the capacity of ice sheets and sea ice to act as major heat sinks or insulators. It is important to determine the scale and rapidity of the response of large ice masses and associated sea ice to climatic forcing. ACE will link geophysical surveys and geological studies on and around the Antarctic continent with ice-sheet and climate modeling experiments. It will determine both climate conditions and climatic changes at periods of unusual warmth and cold during the past 34 million years(see climate history at left), with a focus on the glacial and interglacial events of the last 2 million years. It will also examine the evolution of the Antarctic landscape, to provide climatic and environmental constraints at different times; and the influence of tectonics on the behaviour of the ice sheets and on the opening of gateways for ocean currents. SCAR and the International Polar Year ( ) The 5 SCAR programmes will make significant contributions to achieving the goals of the IPY, by treating the IPY as a Special Observing Period for a selection of their long-term activities. AGCS will use the IPY to test models, to examine the mechanisms by which climate signals are transferred between high and low latitudes, and to carry out a major shallow ice drilling programme. ACE will use new drilling technology to gain long records of past climate on land (SHALDRILL) and from ice shelves (ANDRILL), and will examine the mid Miocene cooling event, Pleistocene warm periods, and the behaviour of the East Antarctic ice sheet. EBA will undertake a Circum-Antarctic Census of Marine life as a contribution to the global Census of Marine Life project, and will establish a Marine Biodiversity Information Network (MarBIN) ICESTAR will expand the development of observatories towards complete coverage of geospace by radars, and predict space weather. SALE will address technological challenges and environmental stewardship issues of sub-glacial lake drilling, and will explore small Lakes Ellsworth (West Antarctic) and Concordia (East Antarctica). In addition SCAR would like to see the IPY lead, among other things, to: The development of a comprehensive data and information management strategy, to ensure that data and information are a key legacy of the IPY. Production of a benchmark series of geological, geophysical and bathymetric maps or atlases. Development of a Southern Ocean observing system including synoptic, multidisciplinary ocean transects; time series measurements; and enhanced marine atmospheric measurements. A major bi-polar shallow ice drilling programme, to improve understanding of annual to multi-decadal scale regional variability. Vastly improved observations of the hitherto under-sampled cryosphere. Exploration of the sub-glacial Gamburtsev Mountains beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, to establish their plate tectonic setting. The programme on Interhemispheric Conjugacy Effects in Solar-Terrestrial and Aeronomy Research (ICESTAR) focuses on the near-Earth part of outer space (known as geospace), where the solar wind interacts with the Earths outer atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetosphere. Manifestations of that interaction, like the aurorae (see figures), appear mainly in the polar regions, owing to the focusing effect of the Earths magnetic field. Through simultaneous consideration of various geophysical phenomena occurring over both the north and south polar regions, ICESTAR will improve understanding of how energy is transferred from the solar wind into the geospace environment, and about the dynamics of the Earths magnetosphere during geomagnetic storms. It will tell us how solar forcing can affect the neutral atmosphere, especially at high latitudes where the solar wind-driven processes are most influential, and will help us to understand the influences of the changing sun on polar climate and weather. Antarctica offers an excellent solid platform from which to observe the vast region of geospace. Much of the continent is now covered by advanced geophsyical equipment for observing geospace. Further instruments will provide coverage comparable to that in the Arctic. ICESTAR will investigate conjugate relationships between the two hemispheres at an unprecedented level of detail. Taking this bi-polar approach will eliminate the effects of seasonal variations and north- south asymmetries, enabling us to fully understand how the entire planet responds to the varying influence of the solar electromagnetic radiation and of the solar wind, thereby helping to improve forecasts of their effects on the Earths surface. The goal is to predict changes in geospace and, hence, in the space weather, so as to mitigate their effects on the space-borne and ground–based electronic and communication system. For further details see the SCAR web site at


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