Horizon Science

The international Antarctic community has developed the first collective vision for science in Antarctica during a ‘Horizon Scan’ in April, convened by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

The vision comprises six scientific priorities that were agreed upon by 75 scientists and policy-makers from 22 countries.

The SCAR Antarctic and Southern Ocean Science Horizon Scan narrowed a list of hundreds of scientific questions to the 80 most critical ones. An overview of these was presented in the journal Nature in August.

The questions fall broadly into six themes:

  • 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.

The expert group said that answering these questions would require long-term sustained and stable research funding and access to all of Antarctica throughout the year. It would also require the application of emerging technologies, strengthened protection of the region, a growth in international cooperation, and improved communication among interested parties.

‘Antarctic science is today particularly important to our understanding of how the Antarctic and Earth system work, what this foretells about the future of our planet and the role that humans play in observed change,’ said SCAR President Jerónimo López-Martínez.

‘The challenge is to find new ways for the global Antarctic community to act together to realize this potential for the benefit of all.’

SCAR is expected to repeat the Horizon Scan exercise every four to six years in support of national strategic planning efforts and emerging integrated science, conservation and policy efforts.

Sourced from SCAR and Nature Vol 512: 23–25, 2014.