U.S. POLAR PROGRAMS                                                                                   $250,630,000



The FY 2000 Budget Request for U.S. Polar Programs is $250.63 million, an increase of $5.56 million, or 2.3 percent, over the FY 1999 Current Plan of $245.07 million.


(Millions of Dollars)




NSF conducts Polar Programs through two budget Activities:


·         U.S. Polar Research Programs include funding for both Arctic and Antarctic research, as well as operations and science support.


·         U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support Activities fund logistics and operational support provided by the Department of Defense that contribute to the U.S. presence in Antarctica. 


Polar Programs is unique within the Foundation in both its geographic focus -- polar regions -- and in the breadth of its scientific programs.  Polar regions play a central role in environmental issues related to global climate and are vital to understanding past, present, and future responses of Earth systems to natural and man-made changes.


The Arctic and Antarctic are premier natural laboratories whose extreme environments and geographically unique processes enable research not feasible elsewhere.  For example, projects supported by Polar Programs employ ice sheets to detect high energy subatomic particles, establish environmental observatories to detect and monitor effects of climate change on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, analyze the chemistry of ice cores as a record of global climate history, utilize astrophysical observations made in cold dry polar conditions to determine the evolution and structure of the universe, examine the effects on marine life of increased ultraviolet light (UVB) from ozone depletion, and elucidate adaptation mechanisms of organisms and ecosystems to harsh living conditions.


NSF is one of twelve federal agencies supporting Arctic research and logistics. The Foundation provides interagency leadership for research planning as directed by the Arctic Research Policy Act of 1984.  NSF also supports university research to increase our knowledge of the region, to improve understanding of Arctic phenomena, and to enhance stewardship of natural resources.  Funding in the Arctic includes research and logistics support for work conducted in that remote region.


NSF is charged with managing all U.S. activities in the Antarctic as a single, integrated program.  The U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) implements national policy to maintain Antarctica as an area of international cooperation reserved for peaceful purposes, to preserve and pursue unique opportunities for scientific research to understand Antarctica and its role in global environmental systems, to protect the relatively pristine environment and its associated ecosystems, and to assure the conservation and sustainable management of the living resources in the surrounding oceans.  Funding for the USAP includes research and the science support directly linked to research projects, as well as support for the broader operations and logistics infrastructure that makes it possible to conduct science on the remote and uninhabited continent.


In FY 2000, Polar Programs will provide support under the Foundation-wide multidisciplinary areas of Information Technology (IT), Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE), and Educating for the Future (EFF).


Information Technologies (IT):  Funding for IT-related activities in FY 2000 totals $18.17 million. These efforts build on funding of $16.97 million in FY 1999 for activities formerly grouped under the title Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI).  FY 2000 priorities include:  development and deployment of remote sensing and remote operation capabilities and development of accessible information systems for polar data.  Other areas of emphasis include the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies and digital maps.


Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE):  Funding for Biocomplexity in the Environment in FY 2000 totals $45.34 million, equal to the FY 1999 level for the set of activities formerly known as Life and Earth’s Environment.  Three overlapping and highly interactive categories of research activities describe BE more fully.  OPP plans in FY 2000 include:


·          Biodiversity and Ecosystems Dynamics (BED) – A total of $23.02 million will support research aimed at understanding the interaction between polar species and the extreme environment; study of physiology, adaptation, and behavior based on molecular level/genetic composition and impact of geophysical/chemical variables, and isolate and culture microbes recovered from snow and ice (biocomplexity); using Antarctica as an analog for other planetary bodies to investigate the possibilities for extra-terrestrial life; supporting recovery and analysis of lowest sections of the Vostok ice core; and support for Long Term Ecological Research observatories.


·          Environment and the Human Dimension (EHD) – Human Dimensions of the Arctic (HARC), funded at $1.59 million in FY 2000, focuses on the linkages between human activity and the terrestrial, marine, and climatic subsystems of the Arctic.  HARC provides an opportunity to integrate ecosystem and climate studies with a broad range of social sciences to understand and predict global change and its effects in the Arctic.


·          Global and Environmental Change (GEC)  $20.73 million will support research efforts in:

-         Southern Oceans Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (SOGLOBEC), studying the impact of global change on southern ocean ecosystem;

-         the Russian American Initiative on Shelf-Land Environments (RAISE) program which will focus on the Russian Arctic -- where three of the world's ten largest rivers and the world's largest continental shelf are located -- in studying the importance of the hydrologic systems of northern Eurasia in controlling glacial extent, sea-ice production and flux, and stratification and productivity of the northern oceans;

-         Climate Variability and Change (CLIVAR), supporting research on the dynamics of Antarctic ocean circulation processes and the global dispersion of Antarctic water masses, specifically on the decadal to centennial time scale; and,

-         Land-Atmosphere-Ice Interactions (LAII)-Flux, investigating feedback processes which modify global climate change, climate variability, and fluxes of ice, fresh water, water-borne materials and greenhouse gases in the Arctic.  The scale of the Flux study has been expanded in the Arctic Transitions in the Land Atmosphere System (ATLAS) project, which is investigating a greater number of vegetation types and climate regimes in western Alaska and possibly Russia so that a fuller circumarctic extent of greenhouse emission may be estimated.


Educating for the Future (EFF):  OPP supports a range of programs which encourage innovative approaches to meeting the challenge of educating students for the 21st century.  Funding for EFF in FY 2000 totals $2.21 million, $300,000 over the FY 1999 level.  Polar Programs supports the Education Research Initiative (ERI), Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program (IGERT), Model Institutions for Excellence (MIE), Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU).



Key Program Functions


U.S. Polar Programs supports its ongoing and new activities through the following key program functions: Research Project Support; Education and Training; Research Facilities; and Administration and Management.


Research Project Support:


Funding for Research Project Support increases by $1.68 million in FY 2000, to a total of $62.43 million, an increase of 2.8 percent over FY 1999.   Priority is given to fundamental research that can be uniquely undertaken in the polar regions.  Research in the Arctic and Antarctic covers virtually every aspect of our planet:  the solid earth, glacial and sea ice, terrestrial ecosystems, the oceans, the atmosphere and beyond.  Research on the solid earth is integral to understanding plate tectonics, the evolution of life in Earth’s distant and recent past, and the effects of Earth’s crust on the overlying ice sheets. Glacial and sea ice studies focus on the role of polar regions in both regional and global climate.  Marine/terrestrial biota studies rely on the extreme environment to study systems relatively unaffected by humans and therefore ideal for observing background constituents of the planet’s air and for determining long-term effects of human activities on the atmosphere.  A major focus of ocean studies is the role of polar regions in generating nutrient-rich, cold currents that influence global ocean circulation. High latitude magnetic field and upper atmospheric studies provide singular views of near-earth space physics. The dry, cold atmosphere at the South Pole, its 9,300 foot elevation and six month continuous night permit astronomical studies not feasible elsewhere. The search for Antarctic meteorites enables fundamental advances in knowledge about the origin of our solar system.


Within Research Project Support, $4.64 million supports three centers in Antarctica.  The Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica conducts research in both astronomy and astrophysics at the South Pole.  Two Antarctic Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites are part of the U.S. LTER network.  On the Antarctic Peninsula, the LTER near Palmer Station focuses on marine research, with field support from the research vessel Laurence M. Gould. At the LTER in the Dry Valleys near McMurdo Station, researchers study polar desert oases and permanently ice-covered lakes.  Research at these sites involves a number of researchers, graduate students and undergraduates from several universities across the United States, as well as researchers from other federal agencies.   In addition, support is provided for a unique suite of integrated instruments used for a number of individual aerogeophysical research projects over ice sheets.


Arctic and sub-Arctic LTERs in Alaska -- at Toolik Lake and at the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest -- are the base for studies of Arctic forests, tundra, lakes and streams.  These LTERs are supported through NSF’s Biological Sciences Activity, with associated research supported by Polar Programs.


In FY 2000, Polar Programs will continue its efforts to address Foundation-wide concerns about grant sizes by increasing the average size and duration of the awards and providing more support for researchers.  In accord with the Foundation's FY 2000 Performance Plan, Polar Programs will continue to provide increased attention to the percentage of competitive research grants going to new investigators.  These efforts will contribute to increasing the efficiency of the Foundation's merit review process and achieve greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.



Research Facilities - Polar Science Operations and Logistics


Research in the polar regions is also supported through provision of special facilities and logistics.  Funding for facilities in FY 2000 totals $184.96 million, a 2.1 percent increase over FY 1999.  In FY 2000, both the physical infrastructure and communications will continue to be upgraded.  Both scientific and operational needs for enhanced computing and communications will be met by equipment upgrades.  Remote sensing, data retrieval, and automated observatories will be developed.




Support for Arctic research facilities, through Polar Programs and other NSF Activities, includes support for Arctic field stations and large instrument facilities in Alaska, Greenland, and Arctic Canada:


·         U.S. Navy nuclear submarines provide for an annual science cruise to the Arctic Ocean for unclassified, dual-use research in physical, chemical and biological oceanography, including a limited number of emergences through the ice for a variety of measurements.


·         Camps and automated stations on the North Slope of Alaska support studies of carbon dioxide and methane fluxes from the tundra, as part of Polar Programs’ Arctic System Science component.


·         A facility at Kangerlussuaq provides support for research on the Greenland Ice Cap.


·         Facilities leased at Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland support terrestrial/icecap field programs in northern Greenland and on the drifting ice of the Arctic Ocean.


·         A monitoring site at Point Barrow, Alaska, is supported by Polar Programs in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for studies of ultra-violet radiation.


·         U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy will make possible research such as Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI), which will examine shelf-slope water mass modification and exchange processes in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and their impact on the thermohaline and biogeochemical structure of the Arctic Ocean.  The overarching goal of the SBI program is to provide a major step forward in understanding biogeochemical processes and their interactions so that predictive capabilities, including those related to global change, can be developed.


·         The research vessel Alpha Helix, part of the U.S. academic research fleet, undertakes oceanographic research in high latitudes.  Primary support comes through NSF’s Ocean Sciences Subactivity, with joint support from Polar Programs.


·         Summit Camp on the Greenland icecap is the site of atmospheric chemistry studies that extend the results of the earlier Greenland Ice Sheet Project Two (GISP 2) for climate research on deep ice cores.


·         Planes, helicopters, and other field support are provided to remote sites in Alaska and Greenland.




In the Antarctic, funds for polar science operations and logistics make research possible by providing all the infrastructure, instrumentation, and logistics necessary for scientists from all disciplines who travel to Antarctica for their research. This support includes forward staging facilities in New Zealand and South America, as well as the home ports or headquarters for the military and civilian contractor in the United States.  Facilities include:


·         A year-round facility at McMurdo Station on Ross Island that functions as the logistics hub of the USAP in addition to the staging area for major summer research camps.  It is the southernmost port and is the largest of the three Antarctic permanent stations.  Research conducted at the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center in McMurdo and in the immediate vicinity emphasizes glaciology, geology and geophysics, and long term ecological research.


·         A year-round facility at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station.  Research areas supported by the station include meteorology, astrophysics, aeronomy, atmospheric chemistry, astronomy, and seismology research related to the origin and evolution of the universe.


·         A year-round facility at Palmer Station on Anvers Island.  It is primarily a marine biology laboratory and is one of NSF's long-term ecological research sites, focusing on biological and marine ecosystem research.


·         Aircraft necessary to provide transportation of people and cargo to and within the continent; all support for outlying field camps; and search and rescue operations.  Some aircraft are owned or leased by NSF, and others are provided on a cost-reimbursable basis by the Department of Defense.


·         Two leased research vessels -- the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, a research icebreaker designed to operate year-round throughout the Antarctic Ocean, and the R/V  Polar DukeLaurence M. Gould, which supports research in the Antarctic Peninsula area and provides the entire logistics support of Palmer Station. The present lease for the R/V Polar Duke has been extended through Spring 1997. The successor, the R/V Laurence M. Gould, under construction in Louisiana, is expected to be available in early autumn 1997.


·         A Polar Class Coast Guard icebreaker for breaking the channel to McMurdo Station for a tanker and supply ship that are provided on a cost reimbursable basis by the Military Sealift Command.


·         Operations support by a civilian contractor which operates the stations, leases private ships and planes, maintains facilities, and provides science support.


·         Air traffic control, meteorology services, and electronic equipment maintenance support by the Department of Defense.


·         Helicopter operations support by a civilian contractor.


In FY 2000, $5.40 million is requested for the next phase of South Pole Station Modernization and $12.0 million is requested to complete modifications to a third NSF polar support aircraft (ski-equipped LC-130).  The Major Research Equipment Account has further information on these requests and on progress addressing critical health, safety and environmental improvements at the South Pole Station, funded in FY 1997.


Education and Training


Innovative efforts in Polar Programs contribute to the integration of research and education.  These efforts include use of new technologies (interactive video); efforts to improve scientific literacy and education in Alaska; and contribution to development of a geosciences curriculum for undergraduates (GLACIER) relating geoscience disciplines to polar and global phenomena.  Continuing activities also include support for the Antarctic Artists and Writers program; Scouting in Antarctica; Live from Antarctica project linking researchers to classrooms; curriculum development initiatives; summer internships in Alaska; and Teachers Experiencing the Antarctic and Arctic.  The Center for Astrophysics in Antarctica (CARA) will host a Chautauqua course for undergraduate teachers.


Polar Programs also supports the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program and Model Institutions for Excellence.


Administration and Management


The Administration and Management key program function includes $2.53 million for the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments, contractors performing administrative functions and, in FY 2000, award-related travel.



NSF’s Role in the Arctic     


Recognizing the importance of the Arctic to studies of resource development and global phenomena such as climate change and ocean circulation, NSF’s FY 2000 Request includes approximately $68 million for investments in Arctic research and education across the Foundation.


Included in NSF’s activities in the Arctic are:

·          Arctic research across most disciplines supported by NSF to gain a better understanding of Earth’s biological, geophysical, chemical, and sociocultural processes, and the interactions of ocean, land, atmosphere, biological, and human systems;

·          continued support of logistical capabilities, research platforms and facilities;

·          support of education and outreach activities, especially those exploring new technology venues and distance learning;

·          increased scientific cooperation at international levels; and,

·          research programs on the human dimensions of global change.



Number of People Involved in Polar Programs Activities






Polar Programs Funding Profile


                1  Statistics for award size and duration are for Research Grants only.