Understanding Antarctica – 50 years of British Scientific Monitoring (1959-2009)
Science has always been at the centre of human endeavour in Antarctica. It is just over 50 years since the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) established many of the long-term research and monitoring programmes now undertaken there. On the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, and on completion of International
Polar Year (2007-08), it is timely to reflect on the importance of Antarctic monitoring and look to its future.
Over the past 50 years, long-term environmental monitoring by the British Antarctic Survey, part of the Natural Environment Research Council, and UK universities has
resulted in many important discoveries, such as the hole in the ozone layer and the rapid melting of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. Research on areas such as climate
change and ice-sheet-linked sea-level rise clearly demonstrate the global importance of Antarctic science. As an active collaborator working with scientists from other
Antarctic Treaty nations, the UK has achieved more than would have been possible working alone.
It is essential to continue to monitor the Antarctic environment, parts of which are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. There are also areas of science about which we have little understanding and which require new long-term research. These include surveying the deep sea, understanding the causes and effects of ocean
acidification in the Southern Ocean and predicting the future of Antarctica’s ice sheets, which play a key role in determining global sea level. This publication presents examples of discoveries by UK scientists that have resulted
from long-term environmental monitoring.
Authors: Hughes, Kevin, Oliver, Jamie
Editors: Rodger, Alan, Shears, John, Culshaw, Robert, Bowman, Rob