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Global Leaders Identify Key Antarctic Questions

April 24, 2014

Global Leaders Identify Key Antarctic Questions

The world’s leading Antarctic scientists, policy makers, environmental leaders and visionaries have identified the key 80 questions confronting Antarctic research in the next 20 years.

The 80 Antarctic leaders started the three-day Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan with more than 800 questions submitted by scientists from throughout the world.

“Over the past three days, Antarctica’s leading thinkers have reviewed, debated and agreed the leading questions facing the continent in a very robust manner,” said Mahlon (Chuck) C. Kennicutt II, Chair of the Horizon Scan International Steering Committee and past president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

“We are now much better positioned to appropriately direct resources towards understanding and protecting Antarctica in the next two decades.

“This will now be based based on a rich and collective vision of the key scientific questions that will continue to face the continent over the next two decades,” said Kennicutt.

The 80 critical Antarctic research science questions have been broadly grouped under seven different themes. The overarching themes encompass the broad expanse of Antarctic science and reflect its innate interdisciplinary nature.

Topics of high interest include the relationship between the dynamics of Antarctic ice sheets and how they deliver water to the ocean that raises sea level around the world. It is predicted that the presence of humans will increase significantly in number over the next twenty years raising concerns about how Antarctic is managed and how humans might change this once pristine wilderness.

Many questions were postulated related to future environmental changes that might be expected to deeply effect Antarctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems, including threats to biodiversity, as the planet warms. Antarctica is a special place for astronomy and astrophysics that allows scientists to address basic issues about how the universe was formed and where life might be beyond found our solar system.

As the 5th largest continent the dynamic earth under the ice remains largely a mystery but holds clues about the evolution of our planet and how the balance of ice and water has fluctuated over the millennia.

“These themes represent the wide range of challenges facing scientists, policy makers and Governments in the future,” said Kennicutt.

“Antarctica is the keystone to the global ocean and climate systems and it is also the most vulnerable part of those systems.

“This horizon scan provides the world’s scientist with the best opportunity to unlock the secrets of Antarctica and to understand the impacts of continuing changes there and how this is communicated beyond the southern polar regions.. This will benefit the whole world now and well beyond the 20 year vision of this exercise,” he said.

The invited participants to 'A View beyond the Horizon: Future Directions in Antarctic Science' included 25 members of the event’s International Steering Committee and 55 experts selected from 800 world-wide nominations of 500 individuals.

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Horizon Scan was the first of at least eight major events that New Zealand will host in 2014 that are significant to the future thinking, science, policy and management of Antarctica.

These include SCAR's biennial Open Science Conference, the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Program's (COMNAP) Symposium and AGM and New Zealand IceFest.

ENDS

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