SCAR Executive Committee Meeting
9-11 July 2007, Washington DC, USA
SCAR EXCOM 2007 WP08: SCAR Annual Report for 2006
Working Paper 8
Agenda Item: 2.3
Deadline: 8 April
Person Responsible: Summerhayes
SCAR’s initiates, develops, and co-ordinates high quality international scientific research in the Antarctic region, and on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system. SCAR adds value to national research by enabling researchers to tackle issues of pan-Antarctic scale or global reach. SCAR also provides objective and independent scientific advice on issues affecting the management of the environment to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM); the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); and the Advisory Committee of the Agreement on Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP). During 2006, SCAR’s main focus was on the XXIXth SCAR Meeting and 2nd Open Science Conference, hosted in Hobart, Tasmania, by the Australian Antarctic Division, which attracted 850 participants.
Through 2006, SCAR continued to focus on research in five main thematic areas: (i) the modern ocean-atmosphere-ice system; (ii) the evolution of climate over the past 34 million years since glaciation began; (iii) the response of life to change; (iv) preparations to study subglacial lakes and their environs; and (v) the response of the Earth’s outer atmosphere to the changing impact of the solar wind at both poles. Particular highlights include the following:
- the Antarctic plateau has been shown to be the best place on Earth for surface-based astronomy – future plans call for possible installation of a terahertz telescope at Dome A, and a 2.4-metre optical/IR telescope at Dome C.
- advanced numerical models show that intermediate depths in the Southern Ocean have warmed by 0.2ºC, and would have warmed by twice as much but for the masking effect of aerosols including volcanic dust;
- analysis of climate models suggests that by 2100 the marginal ice zone will warm in winter by up to 0.6ºC/decade, resulting in a decrease of 25% in sea-ice cover; central Antarctica will warm at 0.4ºC/decade in all seasons; precipitation will increase 3.3mm/decade on average over the continent, mostly around the edges; westerly winds will strengthen over the ocean, mostly in autumn, but coastal easterlies will decrease; katabatic winds will decrease slightly as temperatures on the polar plateau rise by several degrees;
- drilling through the Ross Sea ice shelf shows that the shelf has come and gone repeatedly over the past few hundred thousand years in response to climate change;
- there is a striking biogeographical ‘divide’ between the biota of the Antarctic Peninsula and that of the rest of the continent, suggesting that the biota does not have a ‘recent’ origin.
- evidence of rapid water movement beneath ice sheets suggests that subglacial hydrologic systems exist beneath the polar plateau and may link subglacial lakes;
- conjugate studies of aurora showed that the onsets of simultaneous Arctic and Antarctic substorm onsets are not symmetric, which has implications for predicting space weather events that could have deleterious technological impacts.