Within the physical realm, processes at the interfaces between ice, ocean, land and atmosphere are critical to our ability to describe and predict the response to climate change. Outstanding uncertainties will require continued research directed at improving understanding of ice sheet dynamics, extracting climate records from the ice sheet, exploring processes and changes in sea- ice and ocean circulation and improving understanding of atmospheric dynamics and chemistry and the role of the ozone hole in Antarctic climate. A distinct component of physical sciences research in Antarctica is based on the unique properties of the continent that favour its use as a platform for astronomical and solar-terrestrial observations.
SSG-PS is designed to coordinate international scientific research across several fields:
- the Antarctic continent and the Southern Ocean play key roles in global climate change, and observations of climate parameters and their evolution over time there are crucial to understand and predict local and global change.
- Antarctica is a key environment for studies of all aspects of the cryosphere, including deriving the history of climate change from ice cores.
- the position of the magnetic south pole makes Antarctica (like the Arctic in the north) a region where interactions between a variable star, our Sun, and the Earth can be best monitored from the ground.
- the characteristics of the site (dry, cold, and wind free at some locations, especially on the high domes of the polar plateau) make Antarctica one of the places on Earth where astronomical research is expected to be best conducted.
- Lack of human habitation makes Antarctica a pristine environment in which slight contamination from human activities and from distant volcanic eruptions can readily be observed and related to global physical processes.