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The dramatic collapse of some West Antarctic ice shelves and the significant predicted reductions in sea ice extent and surface area over the next century in Antarctic waters emphasise the pressing need to better understand ocean-ice system dynamics. Current understanding is limited by discontinuous measurements of both ice sea ice, ice shelf and ice sheet properties and sub-surface conditions and currents, and their influence on marine ecosystems.

The Antarctic continent or solid Earth and cryosphere the frozen water part of the Earth system are a tightly coupled system with complex inter-dependencies.

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Science can only understand the state of the present-day ice sheet, and its future evolution, by understanding the interplay of ice sheet history and solid Earth properties to depths of hundreds of kilometres. Knowing the past history of ice sheets is important in resolving the current estimates of cryosphere contributions to sea level. Basic information about the geometry of the sub-ice-shelf cavities and continental shelf bathymetry, the state of the oceans, ice shelves and ice sheet surface melting is currently insufficient to reliably inform numerical ice shelf-ocean models.

Beneath the ice in the polar marine environment, microbes play pivotal roles in the ecology and biogeochemistry of Antarctic sea ice and the Southern Ocean.

French scientific research in Antarctica - Encyclop├ędie de l'environnement

Microbes drive the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and other nutrients, the production and removal of greenhouse gases, and are the base of the polar ecosystems that support life from krill to apex predators. Mesopelagic organisms living below metres link the lower and upper parts of the foodwebs and connect the upper ocean to the abyssal plains on the seafloor.

Little is known about what controls the distributions or make-up of the communities that comprise either microbial or mesopelagic components of foodwebs, and hence how their structure and function will alter with projected future changes to both the cryosphere and ocean. Supporting all of the above will be the development of polar-capable autonomous underwater vehicles, improved sensors for polar sampling, and near real-time sea ice charting and forecasting information for polar vessels.


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Research Themes Antarctica and the Southern Ocean exert immense influence on global and regional climate systems. Review This Product.


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    Both sectors have soils with a mineral appearance, desert pavement, small to nonexistent organic components, and low ground temperatures. Both are underlain by permafrost and are subject to cryogenic processes.

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    Whereas virtually all of the soils in Antarctica are well drained, in the High Arctic the soil pattern consists of a mosaic of Polar Desert soils, as well as various hydric varieties including shallow bogs. In the Polar Deserts the landforms, especially the surficial deposits, are much younger chronologically than their Cold Desert counterparts. Polar Desert soils generally have a more acid reaction than Cold Desert soils.

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    Moisture regimes are quite different in the two sectors. Cold Desert soils have a dry condition even down to the frost table. Polar Desert soils are moist during early summer thaw, however, and are subjected to occasional summer rainfall and probably receive some moisture from condensation; the zone above the receding frost table is usually quite wet.

    How much is Antarctica contributing to sea level rise?

    Whether there are enough distinct differences between the two soils to recognize two different categories remains somewhat moot. After equating all information, however, one appears to be justified in tentatively recognizing two distinct soils. Review This Product No reviews yet - be the first to create one! Need help?