Antarctica is renowned for its extreme cold; yet surprisingly, radar measurements have revealed a vast network of lakes, rivers, and streams several kilometers beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Sealed from Earth's atmosphere for millions of years, they may provide vital information about microbial evolution, the past climate of the Antarctic, and the formation of ice sheets, among other things. The next stage of exploration requires direct sampling of these aquatic systems. However, if sampling is not done cautiously, the environmental integrity and scientific value of these environments cou
Observable changes with regional and global implications, such as warming temperatures and reduced sea ice, are taking place across the Arctic. However, the record of Arctic observations suffers from incomplete geographic coverage and limited duration, and measurements are not well coordinated. This makes it difficult to comprehensively describe current conditions in the Arctic, let alone understand the changes that are underway or their connections to the rest of the Earth system.
The U.S. National Science Foundation asked for guidance to help design a pan-arctic observing ne
In 2007-2008, many nations around the world will host an intense, coordinated field campaign of polar observations, research, and analysis called the "International Polar Year." This report presents an overview of potential science themes, enabling technologies, and public outreach opportunities that can be used to focus International Polar Year on societal needs. The committee recommends that the U.S. scientific community and participating agencies use this opportunity to better understand environmental change and variability in the polar regions; explore new scientific frontiers ranging fro
As we enter the twenty-first century, the polar biological sciences stand well poised to address numerous important issues, many of which were unrecognized as little as 10 years ago. From the effects of global warming on polar organisms to the potential for life in subglacial Lake Vostok, the opportunities to advance our understanding of polar ecosystems are unprecedented. The era of genome-enabled biology is upon us, and new technologies will allow us to examine polar biological questions of unprecedented scope and to do so with extraordinary depth and precision.
The high latitudes of the Arctic and Antarctic, together with some mountainous areas with glaciers and long-lasting snow, are sometimes called the cryosphere-defined as that portion of the planet where water is perennially or seasonally frozen as sea ice, snow cover, permafrost, ice sheets, and glaciers. Variations in the extent and characteristics of surface ice and snow in the high latitudes are of fundamental importance to global climate because of the amount of the sun's radiation that is reflected from these often white surfaces. Thus, the cryosphere is an important frontier for scient