Challenge 2. Earth and the Poles – understanding how polar processes impact the global system
Although the polar regions are remote from the world’s major centres of population, processes at work in these regions affect all of us. Exchange of heat and fresh water between the cold polar atmosphere and the underlying oceans is a major driver of the circulation of the atmosphere and the oceans and is thus an important control on global climate.
Vast amounts of fresh water are locked up in Antarctica and Greenland; loss of these areas is now responsible for ~30% of global sea level rise. The biologically-productive polar oceans are important sinks for carbon dioxide and heat. These waters are central to the regulation of global climate.
Only by studying the far-reaching impacts of changes in the polar regions will we be able to fully understand the potential for change elsewhere on the planet.
Understanding how the poles connect to the rest of the global system requires polar scientists of different disciplines to work together and to collaborate with those studying the Earth as a integrated system. An important part of this process is to ensure that polar processes are properly represented in models of the Earth System being developed for making predictions of global climate and environmental change. With its culture of highly interdisciplinary working, and strong links with global modelling centres (e.g., the UK Meteorological Office) BAS is well-positioned to address this challenge and to continue to break down traditional boundaries between scientific disciplines.