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SCAR XXXVII Paper 10: INStabilities and Thresholds in ANTarctica (INSTANT)

XXXVII SCAR Delegates Meeting
5-7 September 2022, Goa, India

SCAR XXXVII Paper 10: INStabilities and Thresholds in ANTarctica (INSTANT)

Agenda Item: 4.1.3
Person Responsible: Tim Naish
Report Authors: Tim Naish, Florence Colleoni, Alessandro Silvano, Liz Thomas, Alex Simms, Andrew Lloyd, Richard Levy and Sophie Norwicki


INStabilities & Thresholds in ANTarctica (INSTANT) strategic research programme addresses - the question of Antarctica’s uncertain contribution to sea-level change, by using a multidisciplinary Earth systems approach combining geoscience, physical sciences, biological and social sciences to improve understanding of the interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, solid Earth and the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS). It aims at ensuring effective communication on this topic with stakeholders. Therefore, it is sponsored by all 3 Science Standing Groups and works closely with SC-ATS and SC-HASS.

To achieve its goals, INSTANT with its internal SCAR and external partners in the World Climate Research Programme (e.g. CLiC1, CLiVAR2), focuses on the poorly understood processes and feedbacks that influenced ice-sheets in the past, are influencing observed ice sheet changes, and will influence Antarctica’s contribution to future global sea-level change. (see Fig. 1). The key outcomes are reconstructions of past and projections of future ice mass changes, with reduced uncertainties due to an improved knowledge of rate-determining instabilities and irreversible thresholds. These are shared with various stakeholder groups. The ice sheet projections are being integrated into probabilistic sea-level projection frameworks for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report 6 (AR6) shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs)

Key contributions of INSTANT are at the interface of science and policy, and involve engagement between earth system scientists, social scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, planners and publics. Stakeholder engagement and science communication plays an important role in this SRP, especially in converting science data into usable climate information that helps understanding of risk and uncertainty. INSTANT is providing scientific evidence to assess the effectiveness of, and risks associated with, climate change mitigation pathways (e.g., UNFCCC3 Paris Agreement). This evidence is guiding adaptation approaches required to avoid the worst impacts, such as coastal flooding and erosion, groundwater inundation and salinization, habitat loss and large-scale human migration. The impacts of sea-level and ice sheet change around Antarctica are also of critical interest to CCAMLR4, COMNAP5 and Antarctic Treaty System parties, as they will have profound implications for key Antarctic stakeholder groups including national programme operations, tourism and fisheries.

Following a highly successful online kick off meeting in February 2021 (attended by 200 participants), INSTANT has formed and is now up and running. The 3 themes, and 15 subcommittees within, have also held their own virtual kick-off meetings, developed workplans, and have started activities. The steering committee which is made up of representatives of other key SCAR groups and external partners has meet 3 times. Our official memberships has reached 300 from 31 countries, with 30% identifying as ECR. Our values of inclusiveness, diversity, and interdisciplinarity are at the forefront of our goal of facilitating excellent and impactful science. Figure 2 highlights a timeline of INSTANT activities over the last 2 years emphasising: (1) internal-operational activities, (2) SCAR internal collaborative activities, (3) external collaborative activities and (4) products and outputs.

1 Cryosphere in a Changing Climate core research programme of WCRP
2 Climate Variability core research programme of WCRP
3 UNFCCC = United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
4 CCAMLR = Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resource
5 COMNAP = Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs