TABLE S.1 Important Areas of Research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

Global Change


How will Antarctica contribute to changes in global sea level?

What can records preserved in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean reveal about past and future climates?

What is the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the global climate system?

What is the response of Antarctic biota and ecosystems to change?

How has life adapted to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments?

What can the Antarctic platform reveal about the interactions between Earth and the space environment?

What role has Antarctica played in changing the planet in the past?

How did the universe begin, what is it made of, and what determines its evolution?

activity; the committee’s task was to identify and summarize the changes to important science conducted on Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean that will demand attention over the next two decades. The second activity is an NSF-organized Blue Ribbon Panel intended to assist in making strategic decisions to improve the logistical support of the U.S. science program in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean over the next two decades.

In response to its charge, the committee has highlighted important areas of research by encapsulating each into a single, overarching question (see Table S.1). The questions fall into two broad themes: (1) those related to global change and (2) those related to fundamental discoveries. In addition, the committee also identified several opportunities to be leveraged to sustain and improve the science program in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the coming two decades.


Over the past century, temperatures on land and in the ocean have been increasing. Sea level is rising, global weather patterns are shifting, and the chemical and biological processes of the planet are changing. The poles are particularly susceptible to climate change, with the Arctic already displaying large temperature changes. The situation in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is complicated by the influence of the Antarctic ozone hole, another human-induced change that has uniquely affected this region. Thus, the Antarctic region provides an unparalleled natural laboratory in which to study these changing conditions.

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