The aurora australis over the German Antarctic research base, Neumayer-Station III.
The official outcomes of the 1st SCAR Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science Horizon Scan were published online this week as a COMMENT in the journal Nature.
The event, which brought together 75 scientists and policy makers from 22 countries in April of this year, was convened for the international Antarctic community to come to consensus on research priorities for the next two decades. Conscious of the fact that changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean have global consequences and reveal clues about the earth's processes, the final set of 80 questions represent the most pressing gaps in our current understanding of the region. (The full set of questions is available as a supplement on the Nature website.) Taken together, the questions represent six themes that participants agree are the key to realizing the potential of Antarctic science. The overarching themes are:
- Define the global reach of the Antarctic atmosphere and Southern Ocean
- Understand how, where and why ice sheets lose mass
- Reveal Antarctica's history
- Learn how Antarctic life evolved and survived
- Observe space and the Universe
- Recognize and mitigate human influences
As the authors state:
Answering these many questions will require sustained and stable funding; access to all of Antarctica throughout the year; application of emerging technologies; strengthened protection of the region; growth in international cooperation; and improved communication among all interested parties.
Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature 512, 23-25, © 2014