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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop 3 SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVES Following the agency remarks, members of the International Polar Year Implementation Workshop Committee led a discussion on each of the five science and technology recommendations from the Vision report4. The sessions began with a brief statement summarizing the recommendations, followed by general discussion. This summary is based on comments expressed by participants and documents handed out at the workshop. ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE AND VARIABILITY IN THE POLAR REGIONS The discussion on IPY science issues was moderated by Dr. David Bromwich, from the Ohio State University, and Warren Zapol, M.D., from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The initial discussion focused on environmental change. It is well recognized that environmental change and variability are part of the natural pattern on Earth, but changes currently witnessed in the polar regions are in many cases more pronounced than changes observed in the midlatitudes or tropics (NRC, 2004). Participants noted that the polar regions are part of a globally-linked system, and encouraging IPY studies that focus on global teleconnections would be beneficial. The recently-established World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Implement North Pacific and Arctic Observing Enhancement (THORPEX) program could be one mechanism to develop these global teleconnection studies. THORPEX is an international research program to accelerate improvements in the accuracy of 1- to 14-day weather forecasts for the benefit of society, the economy, and for residents of the polar regions. In the Arctic, participants noted that U.S. interests might include internationally-coordinated studies of environmental change and further development of an international observing network. Environmental change crosses all national boundaries, and the underlying mechanisms driving change are pan- 4 The full text of the Vision report (NRC, 2004) recommendations are listed in Appendix E.
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop Arctic and global, necessitating a coordinated, international effort. Several initiatives to study change already exist or are proposed (e.g., Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC), and the IPY) can provide additional benefits to these programs by facilitating international collaboration. Various workshops (NSF, 2002; NSF, 2004a) have recently discussed the development of a more robust Arctic observing network, as has the SEARCH implementation plan (SEARCH, 2003). However, participants stressed that all nations must agree to develop an international network in order to ensure a more successful effort. Along this front, a new NRC study, Designing an Arctic Observing Network, may be valuable, because the committee developing this report will consist of U.S. and foreign representation and will include a mix of science and implementation experts. More details on polar observing networks are presented in the next chapter. In addition to developing a more robust network, efforts to recover past data and create better models will be important efforts during the IPY. Participants also noted that the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), which is an international project to assess knowledge on climate variability, change, and increased ultraviolet radiation and their consequences, will contain extensive scientific recommendations, where the IPY could provide the in-depth understanding needed to enact ACIA recommendations by stressing a period of maximum effort by all the interested countries. It was also noted that one of the untapped sources of in-depth data on Arctic environmental change are daily observations and ecological knowledge of northern residents. Many participants felt that development of special programs engaging local environmental experts and subsistence users in IPY-related observational networks, both on the national (Alaska) and international levels, would be a valuable IPY contribution. In the Antarctic, discussion focused on studies of environmental change, measuring discharge of ice off the Antarctic continent, and linked traverses in East Antarctica. To document environmental change, participants highlighted the need to develop an Antarctic counterpart to Arctic efforts such as SEARCH or ISAC, which could include an extension of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) efforts already underway. For example, several nations are planning to collaborate on a WAIS drilling project during the IPY to obtain a 100,000 year record. Because this will require significant resources, there may be opportunities for developing other studies in West Antarctica in coordination with this drilling program. The IPY is therefore a chance to develop an internationally-coordinated observational and modeling plan to understand past changes (including rapid changes), measure the present, and prepare for the future. To guide the IPY effort efficiently, participants discussed the possibility of focusing on the interaction of ice sheets, the underlying lithosphere, and the atmosphere and oceans, which would have interagency and international interest. By studying the current environmental conditions in Antarctica, data from the IPY also could be used to further understanding of feedbacks between Antarctica and lower latitudes.
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop Discussion on measuring the discharge of ice off the Antarctic continent noted the major logistic challenges associated with this endeavor, highlighting the need for international collaboration. While the United States cannot undertake this effort alone, it possibly could be accomplished through a collaborative international effort, where different countries take different pieces of the perimeter. This type of activity also is very true to the spirit of IPY, and there has already been some discussion at the international level about the possibility of partitioning Antarctica into “slices” and having countries lead the efforts for infrastructure and science in a particular area. Some discussion focused on the possibility of focusing U.S. effort in the Ross Sea sector where U.S. logistical capability is centered. The Antarctic Regional Interactions Meteorology Experiment (RIME) is an example of this approach. COUPLED POLAR HUMAN-NATURAL SYSTEMS Workshop participants discussed how the U.S. and international science communities could use the IPY to pioneer new polar studies of coupled human-natural systems and encourage research to understand the impacts of environmental-technological-cultural change on daily life and society at the community, regional, and global levels. Participants commented that more studies are needed to examine the effects of polar environmental change on the human-built environment, including new research in polar engineering, sustainable land and resource use, social policies, and the sustainability of northern communities. There also was discussion on initiating new interdisciplinary studies of past and present human and societal adaptations in the polar regions and exploring new strategies and holistic approaches to communicate the polar regions’ unique contribution to global cultural and ecological diversity. Many participants felt that these new approaches will advance the scientific use of traditional ecological knowledge and concepts developed by polar residents; pioneer the systemic value of the indigenous concept of “wellness”5; advance studies in community sustainability, subsistence, and co-management strategies; promote studies of ecosystem health and spiritual and environmental healing; encourage culture, heritage, and language preservation; and promote scholarly cooperation between polar researchers and local environmental experts. Discussion on coupled human-environment dynamics also focused on human physical and mental health. In particular, most participants agreed that medicine and public health studies driven by National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists and examining the recent increase in Arctic resident heart, lung, and blood diseases, as well as mental health studies in terms of suicide and understanding the affect of darkness and other environmental stressors on mental health, would be valuable 5 “Wellness” is a popular term among the arctic residents, and it encourages a holistic view of the Arctic as an environment—a system where humans and biological species live together.
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop additions to the IPY program. There also was interest in research on alcoholism and abuse, diabetes due to changing diets, social change, and the arrival of vector diseases to the Arctic. Concern over the effects of environmental change on the human-built environment led to discussion on cold-weather engineering. Engineering research is critical for cold regions, and proponents stressed that research is needed to find out what “safe” engineering means in the Arctic, particularly in a time of rapid environmental change. There was also discussion of the necessity of an engineering program to cope with the effects of thawing permafrost and increased storm-induced coastal erosion, and in particular what this will mean for buildings, roads, harbors, and community infrastructure. Some participants also thought studies on pollution would be important for the IPY, particularly to understand the effects of contaminants on humans and ecosystems. In addition, some participants noted that fisheries and ecosystem management in the polar regions is challenging because in many cases we do not fully know the inter-species dynamics in polar ecosystems, nor how the ecosystems function in rapidly changing conditions. The Census of Marine Life project (http://www.coml.org) is an international program to catalog the marine ecosystems, and the IPY could help initiate a census for polar regions. Participants recognized that significant involvement of the social science community is essential for dealing with issues such as the human dimensions of climate change, wellness, and sustainable land use. These comments are echoed by many other discussions with the science community, both nationally and internationally. Most of the discussions focusing on the need to integrate physical and social sciences note the difficulty in this task and this workshop did not spend considerable time discussing mechanisms to increase the role of social scientists in IPY activities. However, it was noted that a recently formed International Arctic Social Science Association (IASSA) IPY team might facilitate involvement of this community in the IPY. EXPLORING NEW SCIENTIFIC FRONTIERS As noted in the Vision report, exploration of the unknown has been a vital part of humanity’s interaction with the polar environment for thousands of years. In earlier IPY and IGY research programs, science-driven exploration of new geographical regions was a major activity. In the IPY 2007-2008, only limited regions of the Earth’s surface, such as parts of East Antarctica, remain to be explored in the traditional geographic sense. But new scientific frontiers and challenges loom as exploration activity takes advantage of new disciplines and technologies. Discussion during the workshop highlighted four main themes for scientific exploration: genomics, life in extreme environments, geographic places, and the polar night.
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop We know very little about the most prominent species in the polar regions—the microbes (NRC, 2003). These species are involved in virtually all biogeochemical transformations in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems of the polar regions. Without better knowledge of the microbial world at the polar regions, we lack the basis for a comprehensive understanding of the functions of polar ecosystems and their susceptibility to climate change and pollution. Genomic methodologies, which are defined in NRC (2003) as “the study of the structure, content, and evolution of genomes, including the analysis of expression and function of both genes and proteins,” allow identification of species and elucidation of the types of functions their genes and proteins enable them to perform. These new DNA-based methods now provide microbiologists with tools to determine what microbes are out there and what roles they play in ecosystems. An emphasis on genomic sequencing of polar organisms or communities during the IPY would open up important new understanding of the pivotal role that microbes play in all polar ecosystems. Genomic techniques also will help scientists understand life in extreme environments, including how polar organisms adapt to physical extremes. As noted in the NASA remarks, the polar regions are proxies for other worlds, and this research might help us understand life beyond Earth. At the same time, it may help us develop new bio-medical remedies for humankind. Exploration in the traditional sense of going to (relatively) new places still has a role in the next IPY. Recent expeditions to the Gakkel Ridge revealed surprisingly abundant hydrothermal and volcanic activity, highlighting that we do not fully understand Arctic basins. These long-lived hydrothermal ecosystems may have been cut off from the rest of the oceanic ecosystem for a long time, since the ridge segments are isolated, so these ecosystems may contain a large number of endemic species and provide constraints on the genetics and evolution of seafloor organisms. Other potential expeditions to the Canadian and Eurasian Basins during IPY likely will reveal surprises. Although the continental shelves are areas where relatively more exploration has been undertaken, there are few cores of the shelves. The technology is now available to sample these regions with cores. There was also discussion of exploration of East Antarctica and the bedrock conditions of the ice sheet, as well as subglacial lakes. Buried miles beneath the Antarctic ice sheets are subglacial lakes ranging in size from Lake Vostok, a body the size of Lake Ontario, to shallow frozen features the size of Manhattan. Scientists have now identified over 100 lakes, and these unique environments are found nowhere else on Earth. Sealed from free exchange with the atmosphere for 10 million to 35 million years, subglacial environments are the closest Earth-bound analogs to the icy domains of the planet Mars and the moon Europa, and discoveries about life and climate on Earth in the subglacial lakes may have implications for other planets. Nonetheless, subglacial lake exploration poses one of the most challenging scientific, environmental, and technological issues facing polar science today. Therefore, drilling into Lake Vostok as part of the IPY may be difficult due to the technical and environmental challenges, but the IPY could serve as a testbed
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop for subglacial lake drilling technologies. It is possible that a small, isolated lake could be reached during the IPY time frame. In addition to spatial exploration, the IPY could improve our ability to observe conditions during the polar night. This is a time when few scientists operate in the field and when visible satellites cannot provide much information. There is general agreement in the science community that the polar night is not a time of hibernation, but we have not thoroughly investigated processes during the polar night to know much about what happens during this period. POLAR OBSERVING NETWORKS Workshop participants recognized that observations of many significant components of the polar regions remain extremely limited and nonstandardized, due to the small, scattered human populations, limited scientific infrastructure, and inherent difficulties of working in cold, remote environments year-round over sustained periods of time. Additionally, observation infrastructure and records are being lost, reduced, or eliminated in some countries, further restricting our ability to understand these complex regions. There was a strong feeling that the IPY can make a major contribution to science and society by intensively observing the polar regions, undertaking international data rescue efforts, and setting in place an observation network to enable ongoing observations of the polar regions in the decades to come. The development and installation of international, long-term, multidisciplinary observing networks could be a particularly significant legacy of the IPY 2007-2008. It is important to remember that IGY efforts were not confined to the 18-month timeframe; the long-term data collection started in the IGY produced many key and still-continuing data series, such as the famous CO2 records from Mauna Loa and the South Pole. The aspiration for developing a better polar observational network is well-timed for integration with other systems currently in development. For example, the Group of Environmental Observations (GEO) project currently is developing a 10-year implementation plan for designing a global observing network. The IPY can play an important role in the GEO effort by facilitating the development of the polar network, and the participants noted that connections between GEO and IPY need to be strengthened in the coming months in order to realize the potential. The Ocean Research Interactive Observatory Networks (ORION) project also is developing an oceans observing project, which could be cloned to both poles; plans for a cabled observatory off of Barrow would facilitate this during the IPY. The Circumpolar Environmental Observations Network (CEON), which currently is a compilation of present-day observing efforts, also could be expanded through the IPY. Some discussion focused on the role local residents could play in an expanded network. Using their ecological knowledge, this would be a powerful and plentiful resource. There also was extensive discussion of
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop the need to develop sensors and power systems to operate autonomous observatories over the polar night, particularly in the interior Antarctic. Most participants strongly endorsed the concept of a “polar snapshot” during the IPY, when nations would focus their satellite assets on coordinated campaigns of obtaining information across the electromagnetic spectrum. Coordination of satellite observations from this ever-growing international suite of sensors and additional focus by higher data rate sensors that do not collect data continuously would secure valuable benchmark datasets and advance the effort to assess the ongoing polar change. Participants also noted the value of the polar snapshot idea would be maximized with intensive field campaigns during the IPY, to compare satellite observations with in situ measurements. It is unlikely that new satellites will be built for the IPY, but there is some hope that NASA can push along a salinity sensor for launch during IPY. There also were discussions about employing commercial satellites or utilizing high-resolution military satellites in a similar manner to the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) effort. CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE Participants began the discussion of critical infrastructure by noting that one of the IGY’s great legacies was the valuable scientific and geopolitical infrastructure (e.g., research stations and the Antarctic Treaty) left behind, and that hopefully the coming IPY could have similar impacts. In particular, discussion focused on the potential for new international policies, better infrastructure, and innovative technologies that will be instrumental for collecting and analyzing data during the IPY and for disseminating IPY research to the broader public. There was concern that without some expanded and new international agreements, new pan-arctic observing networks that currently are being discussed will be at best very difficult, and perhaps impossible, to implement. The new science and development of expanded polar observing networks also will require better infrastructure to deploy, service, and maintain functionality in the system. Innovative sensors, better equipped to handle the polar night and take advantage of communications bandwith, also could be a fundamental part of the IPY. Many participants expressed interest in capitalizing on the IPY to increase base infrastructure and revitalize the U.S. icebreaker fleet, which is moving toward obsolescence and requires attention soon if we are to be able to fulfill our scientific and geopolitical obligations in the polar regions. These infrastructure upgrades would facilitate research during the IPY and into future decades. The multidisciplinary observing network mentioned above will improve spatial and temporal coverage and provide a critical benchmark dataset for assessing the state of the polar environment (NRC, 2004). While current technologies would provide a good basis for development of the network, new sensors and autonomous vehicles could greatly expand the value of the observing network. For instance, sensors that vary observational parameters or temporal sampling rates, or sensors
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop that interact with each other in a “sensor web” would greatly expand the utility of the observing networks. These “smart” sensors also could last longer by better utilizing power, for instance by remaining dormant until the phenomenon they are programmed to measure occurs. The polar environment is an ideal testing ground for advancing these concepts, with tangible benefits from improving the relative proportion of valuable data that are collected to the more efficient use of available power (NRC, 2004). Innovative technologies, in the form of autonomous vehicles, could provide additional observations between observing nodes, and they can be utilized to perform some functions that other ships and planes cannot (NRC, 2004). For instance, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can remain aloft for long time periods (more than 24 hours) and have tremendous range. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are the subsurface complement to UAVs and share many of the same advantages—for example, long mission times and range with no risk to human life. Another promising strategy for obtaining significant surface and near-surface observations is the deployment of instrumented rovers, such as those in design and consideration for use on Mars. Although still in their infancy, the potential research applications for autonomous vehicles are numerous, and their continued adaptation for polar operations would be greatly advanced by a concerted IPY research program. Many participants also noted the need to upgrade infrastructure to develop more comprehensive polar education programs, in particular enhancing bandwith and wireless capabilities in remote northern communities. Improving this infrastructure would also be instrumental in improving outreach efforts and better integrating native knowledge into observing networks. A BROADER SCOPE The above discussion on science and technology items focused on attainable, realistic goals, often based on existing or planned activities. Participants then brainstormed for “dream items” that they would like to see in a more ambitious IPY, should this be possible. The following list does not convey a ranking or importance, nor is it intended to be complete or comprehensive. Performing regional reanalyses of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-sea iceland system of both polar regions to describe and understand contemporary climate variability and change Generating a genomic fingerprint of several polar organisms, including a microbe, fish, bird, and mammal Utilizing a movable array of seismographs, notably in Antarctica Accelerating icebreaker repair, in particular the Polar Sea Emphasizing an engineering program for cold regions Purchasing commercial satellite data (e.g., RADARSAT)
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International Polar Year 2007–2008: Report of the Implementation Workshop Developing and adapting new technologies to the polar regions, such as rovers, UAVs, and drilling probes Using a steerable ice drill Equipping a long-range research aircraft capable of flights to East Antarctica Extending geodic infrastructure to the Antarctica interior Developing an inward-looking telescope Enhancing global teleconnections studies Revisiting glaciers studied during IGY Obtaining polar operations past the traditional season (e.g., polar night) Defining a policy of free global data during IPY, for the benefit of all, not the profit of some Establishing global infrastructure to create a legacy for generations to come Re-affirming easy access to other country zones for research purposes Proclaiming an international statement for the polar regions as “zones of peace” Developing international agreements for cooperation in future Arctic activities in a similar way that the Antarctic Treaty developed out of the IGY Encouraging countries who are not currently heavily involved in polar research to participate in the IPY, in particular, encouraging areas that are in conflict to participate Preserving the IPY legacy through logbooks, instruments, and photographs Collecting samples for study in years after the IPY Repeating laser altimetry studies in Greenland Surveying ice shelves to create better topographic maps Enacting sustained weather station measurements Laying out the strategy for an Icesat follow-on Creating a more spatially-representative marine-based Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Finding a surplus submarine for polar research
Representative terms from entire chapter: