Laboratory Antarctica: Research Contributions to Global Problems

Science  04 Dec 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4832, pp. 1361-1368
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4832.1361


Research in Antarctica is becoming increasingly important in the large interdisciplinary studies of connections within the earth's geosphere-biosphere system. Four examples of broad research areas are discussed. Upper atmosphere research explores the sun-earth interactions, which are most intense in the polar regions. The mass balance and dynamics of the large Antarctic ice sheet, and its paleoclimatic records recovered from deep ice cores, are important indicators of past and present global changes. Antarctica and sediment cores from the Southern Ocean contain the history of inception and growth of the ice masses and their subsequent fluctuations, and the long-term history of paleoclimate. The remarkable adaptations of Antarctic biota to extreme cold and drought may allow, through biotic monitoring, the detection of changes in the ocean and climate of Antarctica.