The Difficult and The Cryptic: Next Questions For Antarctic Earth Science from a Remote Sensing Perspective

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 10:55
103 (Moscone South)
Thomas Paul Wagner, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, United States
A system-level approach to Antarctic science may be on the horizon. This talk will outline some of the required activities, and discuss ways the polar science community can marshal resources to achieve them. Advances in remote sensing, earth science, and modeling have set the stage for leaps in our understanding of the ice sheet and sea ice, and their connections to the atmosphere, ocean, and solid earth. Two seemingly opposed activities are now needed to capitalize on these advances: intense, challenging field campaigns—especially at the ice-ocean interface—and routine in situ measurements across the region to improve our knowledge of cryptic, important phenomena such as surface mass balance. Satellite observations have revealed significant on-going changes in the Antarctic cryosphere, including increases in sea-ice cover, outlet-glacier retreat, sub-glacial water activity, and ice-shelf fracture. The processes that drive these changes, however, are partly understood at best and field campaigns and routine measurements throughout the region are required. Remote sensing observations have offered a range of new insights into the ice-ocean interface, and models of the ice sheet and ocean have dramatically improved. But in situ data to constrain them is sorely lacking. Intense field campaigns with installed instrumentation are needed. Similarly, knowledge of the surface mass balance of land and sea ice is also needed to constrain ice sheet mass balance and sea ice evolution. Atmospheric reanalyses of satellite data may help characterize these phenomena by providing a comprehensive view of the climate system. But they require validation data, such as precipitation rates, and improved process knowledge, such as improved characterizations of clouds and blowing snow. These require in situ measurements, especially routine measurements at challenging locations throughout the region.