Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Arctic System Science Program

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 14.4
FY95 14.2
FY96 14.2

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate change: Aerosols (20%); Ocean ecosystems (20%); Ecosystem migration (20%); Forecasting and past climate changes (30%);Exploratory (10%).
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (100%);

Organizational Component:
Office of Polar Programs
Directorate for Geosciences, and Directorate for Biological Sciences
Office of Polar Programs
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Patrick Webber
Phone: 703-306-1029

Research Goals:
To understand the physical, geological, chemical, biological and social processes of the Arctic system that interact with the total Earth System, and to advance the scientific basis for predicting environmental changes and effects on a decade to centuries time scale.

Research Description:
The ARCSS program is predicated on the important role that polar regions play in global climate change. ARCSS currently has four linked ongoing projects: Greenland Ice Sheet Program (GISP2), Paleoclimate of Arctic Lakes and Estuaries (PALE), Ocean/Atmosphere/Ice Interactions (OAII), and Land/Atmosphere/Ice Interactions (LAII). GISP2 focuses on the Greenland ice sheet as a long-term record of global temperature and atmospheric change. PALE reconstructs a paleoecological history from the sediment record of arctic lakes and subarctic bogs, lakes, and near-ocean sediments. Archaeological projects provide information about long-term human adaptation to climate change in the arctic. LAII concerns feedback processes within the arctic system which amplify global climate change, climate variability and the fluxes of ice, fresh water, water-borne materials and greenhouse gases. OAII investigates the effects of energy exchange on the water column structure of the Arctic Ocean and interactions with the overlying atmosphere. The effects of carbon sequestration, ecosystem dynamics, sedimentation and carbon deposition are also important components of these large-scale investigations. Future directions of ARCSS will incorporate synthesis, integration, modeling and assessment activities, as well as issues

Program Interfaces:
IARCSS is coordinated by 3 NSF divisions and offices (OPP, OCE, and ATM ) and contributes to numerous NSF-based initiatives, for example ROCEW (Role of Clouds, Energy and Water), ACC (Abrupt Climate Change), WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment), GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics), EROC (Ecological Rates of Change), and LMER (Land-Margins Ecosystems Research). GISP2 collaborates with CRREL (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory), USGS and NOAA as well as with the European sister program, GRIP (Greenland Ice Core Project). LAII and OAII collaborate with ONR/DoD, NASA, USGS, DOI and DOE. ARCSS also has direct links with several IGBP core projects such as PAGES (Past Global Changes); OAII links to LOICZ (Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone) and JGOFS (Joint Global Ocean Flux Study, and LAII to the BAHC (Biosphere Aspects of the Hydrologic Cycle) and GCTE (Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems) programs.

Program Milestones:
GISP2 has completed a 5 year drilling program and has retrieved a 3052 meter long ice-core which contains a detailed 250,000 year record of climate and atmosphere constituents; analysis to be completed by late 1997. OAII activities includes a 1994 joint US/Canadian cruise across the Arctic Ocean, a US Navy Submarine cruise in 1995, and a major new project called Surface Heat Budget for the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) to be completed in 1999. The integration PALE and archaeological/historical data is planned to be completed by 1999. Initiate 1995 projects on land/coastal basin shelf/ocean basin interactions and interactive projects that focus on water fluxes from land to the ocean and on carbon sequestration and plant distribution patterns in terms of past climate regimes. Initiate in 1996 and complete in 1999 research projects that determine whether greenhouse-gas-induced changes in temperature and moisture are large enough to trigger changes in trace gas fluxes.

Policy Payoffs:
Short term payoffs from the paleo projects will serve to direct much future research. For example, the rapid rates of temperature change implied by the early analysis of GISP2 cores suggest new measures and experimental designs, and raises many questions about predictive models. Long-term payoffs will come through the synthesis efforts of OAII and LAII and from subsequently improved models of global change and feedback mechanisms. The integration of social science research into the ARCSS program establishes linkages to the human dimensions of global change.