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Introduction

The Committee on Arctic Solid-Earth Geosciences was established by the Polar Research Board of the National Research Council to undertake a study in the board's ''Polar Research-A Strategy'' series, designed to guide the evolution of polar research into the next century. A companion study in this series, a summary of antarctic solid-earth geosciences, was published in 1986. Thus, a parallel activity for the Arctic was considered appropriate and timely, particularly in view of continuing interests in U.S. arctic research and policy. The committee's charge was to identify and address the gaps in scientific understanding of arctic solid-earth geosciences and in current research programs, the needs related to support and management of recommended research, and the coordination of research effort. In developing this report, which is the result of its deliberations, the committee benefited from the advice and assistance of many scientists in the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, and in other countries. Other reports in the "Strategy" series, e.g., Permafrost Research: An Assessment of Future Needs (NRC, 1983a), Snow and Ice Research: An Assessment (NRC, 1983b), The Polar Regions and Climatic Change (NRC, 1984a, b), and Recommendations for a U.S. Ice Coring Program (NRC, 1986) are closely related to parts of this report. Therefore, we discuss such subjects only when they are pertinent to the record of arctic environmental change preserved in the solid earth.

The committee recommends that arctic solid-earth geoscience in the last decade of the 20th century focus on three broad research areas: (1) the geologic framework and tectonic evolution of the Amerasia Basin of the Arctic Ocean, which is of direct relevance to the discovery of nonrenewable resources in arctic shelves and landmasses, (2) the environmental history of the Arctic Ocean Basin, which is a basic component of global change studies, and (3) arctic geologic processes that are of societal concern or which, if better understood, would improve our ability to interpret the environmental history of the Arctic from its sedimentary record. Establishing a detailed and, where possible, quantified paleoenvironmental history of the Quaternary of the Arctic is a major and pressing challenge because the Arctic and Subarctic may contain some of the most sensitive systems for documenting global change.

Recent technological and political developments have made many of the proposed investigations feasible for the first time. They include the availability of icebreaking vessels capable of supporting scientific research in the high Arctic, a change in political climate toward openness and collaboration among the arctic nations (e.g., the newly formed International Arctic Science Committee has among its members representative organizations from the eight arctic countries and from six non-arctic countries), and a growing recognition that several problems of global scientific and societal concern have components that can be addressed only within the Arctic. However, the greatest advances in understanding of the solid earth beneath the Arctic Ocean



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Opportunities and Priorities in Arctic Geoscience 1 Introduction The Committee on Arctic Solid-Earth Geosciences was established by the Polar Research Board of the National Research Council to undertake a study in the board's ''Polar Research-A Strategy'' series, designed to guide the evolution of polar research into the next century. A companion study in this series, a summary of antarctic solid-earth geosciences, was published in 1986. Thus, a parallel activity for the Arctic was considered appropriate and timely, particularly in view of continuing interests in U.S. arctic research and policy. The committee's charge was to identify and address the gaps in scientific understanding of arctic solid-earth geosciences and in current research programs, the needs related to support and management of recommended research, and the coordination of research effort. In developing this report, which is the result of its deliberations, the committee benefited from the advice and assistance of many scientists in the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, and in other countries. Other reports in the "Strategy" series, e.g., Permafrost Research: An Assessment of Future Needs (NRC, 1983a), Snow and Ice Research: An Assessment (NRC, 1983b), The Polar Regions and Climatic Change (NRC, 1984a, b), and Recommendations for a U.S. Ice Coring Program (NRC, 1986) are closely related to parts of this report. Therefore, we discuss such subjects only when they are pertinent to the record of arctic environmental change preserved in the solid earth. The committee recommends that arctic solid-earth geoscience in the last decade of the 20th century focus on three broad research areas: (1) the geologic framework and tectonic evolution of the Amerasia Basin of the Arctic Ocean, which is of direct relevance to the discovery of nonrenewable resources in arctic shelves and landmasses, (2) the environmental history of the Arctic Ocean Basin, which is a basic component of global change studies, and (3) arctic geologic processes that are of societal concern or which, if better understood, would improve our ability to interpret the environmental history of the Arctic from its sedimentary record. Establishing a detailed and, where possible, quantified paleoenvironmental history of the Quaternary of the Arctic is a major and pressing challenge because the Arctic and Subarctic may contain some of the most sensitive systems for documenting global change. Recent technological and political developments have made many of the proposed investigations feasible for the first time. They include the availability of icebreaking vessels capable of supporting scientific research in the high Arctic, a change in political climate toward openness and collaboration among the arctic nations (e.g., the newly formed International Arctic Science Committee has among its members representative organizations from the eight arctic countries and from six non-arctic countries), and a growing recognition that several problems of global scientific and societal concern have components that can be addressed only within the Arctic. However, the greatest advances in understanding of the solid earth beneath the Arctic Ocean

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Opportunities and Priorities in Arctic Geoscience await the use of nuclear submarines as research platforms. This is technologically feasible and would revolutionize our knowledge of one of the least-understood regions on Earth. A growing awareness of the relevance of scientific knowledge of the Arctic to national as well as global issues and problems led to enactment of the Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984. It is our hope that the present report will foster the development of an arctic solid-earth geoscience research initiative and support infrastructure for the United States, will augment existing research activities, and will help to reinforce international research efforts. In this regard, we thank the Academy of Sciences of the USSR for hosting a meeting, Arctic Research Priorities in Solid-Earth Geosciences, in Moscow, November 16–17, 1987, and for subsequent meetings with Soviet arctic geoscientists at the scientific and technical complex Sevmorgeo in Leningrad. These sessions provided the committee with the opportunity to exchange views on arctic solid-earth geosciences with leading Soviet scientists and offered opportunities to improve communication and collaboration between Soviet and U.S. geoscientists working in the Arctic. A chart showing the standard chronostratigraphic terms and ages for the Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary periods of the geologic time scale used in this report is shown as Figure 1. FIGURE 1 Subdivisions of the Cretaceous, Tertiary, and Quaternary periods of the geologic time scale (from Palmer, 1983) that are widely used in this report.