Recommendations for a
U.S. Ice Coring Program
Recommendations for an Ice Coring and Analysis Program (ICAP)
SCOPE OF THE SCIENTIFIC PROGRAM
1. The U.S. should make a commitment to support a balanced and carefully planned program of ice coring and core analysis over a period of at least 10 years. This length of time will be needed, first, to develop an appropriate management structure, scientific plan, engineering capability, and manpower pool; and second, to mount field and laboratory efforts adequate to realize the major scientific opportunities now in sight.
2. Drilling for this program should penetrate high-latitude ice sheets in both polar hemispheres as well as selected low-latitude ice masses. Such a broad geographic coverage is needed to define how climate has changed over the past several hundred thousand years, and to provide a basis for understanding the physical and biological processes that accompanied those changes.
3. The program should obtain records of ice properties and climatic parameters from an appropriate distribution of shallow, intermediate, and deep ice cores. Because different climatic processes operate on different time scales, records of different lengths are needed to understand and predict the course of climate and human impact on it.
4. Within each depth category, the drilling phase of the program should be carefully planned to obtain, archive, and distribute a sufficient number of cores to address the outstanding scientific questions. Because the processes by which ice accumulates are complex, the first question to be asked of each core record is the degree of stratigraphic continuity. This question can only be answered by obtaining and studying more than one core from each study area. Once an observed change is shown to result from climatic processes rather than noise in stratigraphic processes, the second question to be defined is the geographic scale of the phenomenon. Our ability to answer this question will depend primarily on the number and spacing of drilling sites within each depth category.
5. The United States should maintain a state-of-the-art technology and continue to improve it to drill shallow. intermediate, and deep ice cores, while continuing to contribute its expertise to an international effort. Because the scale of the drilling program required to accomplish ICAP goals is large, and the expense of the operations substantial, no nation can reasonably be expected to accomplish these goals by itself. A cooperative, international program is clearly required to accomplish ICAP. The United States should play its proper role in this international effort, not only with an appropriate contribution to logistics, but also with scientific apparatus that ensures direct access by U.S. scientists to core material.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION
1. The National Science Foundation (NSF), through its Division of Polar Programs (DPP), should be the lead agency in funding, the new ice coring and analysis program (ICAP) and should manage the program on behalf of the scientific community.
2. The responsibility for providing NSF with scientific and technical planning and advice in its role as manager of ICAP should be vested in a new U.S. national action group, the Ice Core Working Grout) (ICWG). By drawing on the knowledge and experience of members of the international community of scientists and engineers, it is envisioned that ICWG would provide the driving force for a vigorous U.S. activity in ice coring and analysis.
To some extent, the model for the management structure recommended here was taken from the highly successful Deep Sea Drilling Program, and its successor programs International Program for Ocean Drilling (IPOD) and Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). In that endeavor, the crucial element of scientific leadership was provided by the scientific advisory structure known as Joint Oceanographic Institutions Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES), and particularly by the Planning Committee of JOIDES, which was the scientific prime mover of the entire enterprise. The experience of the Deep Sea Drilling Program was, in essence, that it is unreasonable to expect the level of scientific leadership required for a complex program to come from any one academic institution or any single NSF program staff. We believe that this is true in the area of ice core drilling and analysis as well, and strongly recommend that a U.S. national body known as ICWG be created. The initiative for setting up this body should be taken by the scientific community, in consultation with the PRB Committee on Glaciology and the
Several options are available for the funding and structure of ICWG, including setting it up as a separate corporation, like the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which has corporate responsibility for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), or like the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI), with operational as well as advisory functions. We favor a simpler structure in which a group of committed investigators, representing at least five U.S. institutions that have personnel with scientific or technical command of relevant disciplines, put forward a proposal for funding an ICWG through DPP. The responsibility for ICAP's scientific planning and management would therefore be vested in active principal investigators (PIs) from U.S. institutions. Responsibility for leadership would be vested in a PI at a lead institution, which by plan of ICWG could rotate. Similarly institutional membership in ICWG may shift as the program evolves, as was the case with
The ICWG's operations must include a carefully defined set of tasks, which include the following:
- Scientific coring plans and provide oversight for each of the three broad geographical regions (Arctic, Antarctic, and mid-latitudes) and a global strategy,
- Plan for drilling technology development,
- Recommendations for an appropriate balance between capabilities in shallow, intermediate, and deep drilling,
- Plan for development and validation of geochemical and geophysical ice analysis techniques,
- Representation of U.S. scientific interest in international planning, specifically by participation in the international advisory body proposed in recommendation 5 below, and
- Interface of ice core research with other disciplines.
To accomplish these and other tasks that may arise, ICWG may find it desirable to establish panels having membership drawn from the international scientific and engineering communities.
3. NSF should sequester funds for the support of U.S. ice core research. It is suggested that NSF take on a lead agency role in the funding of the polar ice program and be the coordinator of funding from other interested government agencies, to whom ice core information will be of great interest. For example, the information about past atmospheric carbon dioxide content and processes in the carbon - cycle are of interest to the Department of Energy, and the problem of future sea level changes produced by future size changes of ice sheets will be of interest to both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.
4. Funding must be managed to ensure long-term continuity of the program so that a capable personnel base will be developed and maintained.
5. As the United States develops its own expanded program of ice coring, and analysis, it should coordinate its effort with that of other nations through a formally constituted advisory body that draws on the experience of the international community of working scientists. The cooperative nature of the international effort envisioned for this program can, fortunately, be viewed as a natural extension of the cooperative international effort that characterized, previous programs of high-latitude ice coring.
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