Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, enough to raise sea level by more than fifty metres. Some regions of Antarctica, particularly the Peninsula, have warmed rapidly in recent years, contributing to disintegration of ice shelves and accelerating the retreat of glaciers. There is growing consensus that the Antarctic ice sheet is experiencing a net mass loss. Loss of ice from the West Antarctic ice sheet may possibly contribute to a rise in sea level by 2100 of up to 1.9 metres. Observations of the cryosphere are therefore of the utmost importance. SCAR is a partner in the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Cryosphere Theme Report (CryOS) and various SCAR programmes such as the Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate Expert Group (ASPeCt) make a direct contribution to this effort and will continue to do so.
The Southern Ocean plays unique and critical roles in the Earth system by driving global weather and climate. For example, Antarctic Bottom Water, formed along the Antarctic coast, sinks to ventilate the global ocean. Meanwhile, Antarctic Intermediate Waters supply the world ocean with 75% of the nutrients that sustain ocean productivity. The ocean absorbs around 40% of anthropogenic atmospheric emissions of CO2 of which 40% is absorbed by the Southern Ocean20. This uptake is increasing the acidity of the oceans, which may be deleterious to marine organisms and ecosystems. It has been documented that the Southern Ocean is changing, but observations to confirm and monitor this change are sparse. Integrated, multi- disciplinary observations are needed to understand and predict the response of biota to changes in Southern Ocean chemistry, temperatures and circulation. A plan and 20-year vision for the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) have been developed with the support of international partners, in particular the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR).
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