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The FY 2003 Budget Request for U.S. Polar Research Programs Activity is $235.74 million, an increase of $6.0 million, or 2.6 percent, over the FY 2002 Current Plan of $229.74 million.

(Millions of Dollars)


FY 2001

FY 2002

FY 2003




Arctic Research Program






Arctic Research Support and Logistics






Arctic Research Commission






Antarctic Research Grants Program






Operations and Science Support






Total, U.S. Polar Research Programs






Totals may not add due to rounding.

The U.S. Polar Research Programs Activity supports both Arctic and Antarctic research. Arctic support represents part of a larger NSF and federal research effort. Antarctic support includes funding for NSF-supported researchers as well as for meeting NSF responsibilities as manager of the entire federal Antarctic program, including special requirements for operations and science support.

Arctic Research Program

The FY 2003 Budget Request for the U. S. Arctic Research Program within Polar Programs is $37.84 million, an increase of $1.06 million, or 2.9 percent, over FY 2002. This funding, with the Arctic Research Support and Logistics funding, represents over 70 percent of the NSF support for university-based Arctic research.

The U.S. Arctic Research Program supports research on the Arctic Ocean, atmosphere, and land areas - including their people, and marine and terrestrial ecosystems. In addition to research in individual disciplines, an Arctic System Science (ARCSS) component focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the Arctic region, including its role in global climate.

Of growing interest and importance is providing full annual access to polar regions - such as Summit, on the Greenland icecap - to extend measurements on biological and physical systems into the dark months and testing models developed on the basis of summer-only measurements. This includes facilitating both on-site research and virtual access through remote instrumentation.

It has become widely recognized that the Arctic is in the midst of a change over the last decade. Changes have been measured in the ice cover, atmosphere, some terrestrial parameters, and northern ecosystems. Residents of the north are seeing these environmental changes affecting their lives. It is important to determine whether these changes are correlated with a short-term shift in atmospheric circulation or whether they signal long-term global change.

Priorities in FY 2003 include:

  • Expansion of fieldwork begun in FY 2002 to measure Arctic/Subarctic Ocean Fluxes (ASOF) and aspects of Arctic basin hydrology. These are the high priority, more mature elements of the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) that is planned to be a multiyear, multi-million dollar per year effort involving many federal agencies.

  • Improvements in health, safety and infrastructure at facilities in Alaska, Greenland, and Russia, including modern dormitories, high bandwidth communications, and autonomous year-round power systems (up to 2kW). Additional investments in medical assistance services and satellite phones, as well as field training courses, need to be made. Improved access to Russian facilities and long-term data through cooperative programs is required.

Ongoing activities include:

  • The Arctic Transitions of the Land-Atmosphere System (ATLAS) project is finishing a five-year interdisciplinary study of the role of climate change on the ability of soil, hydrology, and tundra plants to store or release greenhouse gases. ATLAS will synthesize results using a wide range of process, regional, and global circulation models to determine if a predicted warming climate will result in further release of carbon dioxide from Arctic soils.

  • The Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic (SHEBA) Ocean project is finishing a nine-year study of the role of climate on clouds and sea ice conditions affecting the storage of heat in the Arctic Ocean. SHEBA is using data collected from a one-year ice-drift station to improve model simulations of climate impacts on Arctic sea ice conditions and the feedbacks to global climate.

  • The Arctic Mid Ocean Ridge Expedition (AMORE) program should see the completion of analyses of the lithology and tectonics of the Gakkel Ridge.

  • The Research Support and Logistics program will continue to support approximately 140 projects throughout the Arctic. Almost half the projects are located in Alaska; Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea efforts are now rising to a significant fraction of the total, with full use of the USCGC Healy as well as time on Polar Sea and Polar Star, and the R/V Alpha Helix.

Arctic Research Support and Logistics

Arctic research support and logistics is driven by and responsive to the science supported in U.S. Arctic Research programs. Funding for logistics is provided directly to grantees or to key organizations who provide or manage Arctic research support and logistics. Some of the highlights and improvements are:

  • Increased ability to provide fixed and rotary-wing airlift support to researchers conducting regional studies in the difficult, and often fragile, Arctic terrain in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Arctic Scandinavia, and Russia.
  • Improved access to U.S. Coast Guard and other icebreakers, University-National Oceanographic Laboratory vessels and coastal boats, and support on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.
  • Infrastructure upgrades at Toolik Field Station, University of Alaska, Fairbanks' field station for ecological research on Alaska's North Slope.
  • Development of new capabilities at the Barrow Environmental Observatory.
  • Further development of a year-round facility at Summit, Greenland, in collaboration with European partners.
  • Establishment of strategically placed Long-Term Observatories capable of supporting selected chemical and physical on-site analyses. For example, sites to measure the river input into the Arctic Ocean from the surrounding continental land masses or observe ocean flux through the Bering Strait.
  • Development of innovative technology and instrumentation such as pilotless aircraft and autonomous underwater vehicles that will allow investigators to make measurements year-round in and above the Arctic Ocean.
  • Improved safety measures for field researchers, including field safety experts, global satellite telephones for emergency response, and improved logistics coordination.
  • Partnering with the International Arctic Research Center, based at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to support global change assessment activities and research in the Arctic.

Arctic Research Commission

Funding for the Arctic Research Commission (ARC), an independent federal agency, is transferred through the National Science Foundation to ARC. In FY 2003, ARC is requesting $1.08 million, an increase of $60,000, or 5.9 percent, over FY 2002.

Antarctic Research Grants Program

The FY 2003 Budget Request for the Antarctic Research Grants Program is $40.46 million, an increase of $680,000, or 1.7 percent over FY 2002. The program provides grants to fund scientific research related to Antarctica and to the Southern Ocean. The FY 2003 Request will support research projects in Antarctica and at academic institutions in the U.S. This fundamental research will provide insights on the ozone hole, how extreme environments affect gene expression, the effects of ultraviolet radiation on living organisms, changes in the ice sheet and impacts on sea level, global weather and climate, ocean circulation, and on the early evolution of our universe as well as its current composition.

Priorities in FY 2003 include:

  • Investigating temperature increases of 15_ F and more that occurred over periods of just a few years, and lasted for hundreds of years on numerous occasions in past times. There is now great scientific and policy interest in determining whether these shifts were local or global. Additional deep ice cores will need to be drilled to answer that question. FY 2003 will begin the site survey work to set the stage for a multiyear several million dollar effort. A closely related FY 2003 activity will be to engage with Great Britain to determine whether the grounding line of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is retreating. This has implications for climate and sea-level studies.

  • Initiating preparations for exploring Antarctic sub-glacial lakes. These lakes have been buried in total darkness by thousands of meters of ice for millions of years but preliminary work has provided indirect evidence for the existence of microscopic life forms. The initial activity will develop instrumentation for measuring the physical parameters of the lakes - salinity, temperature, pH, turbidity, etc. - throughout the full depths of the lakes, as well as instrumentation for remote sampling of life forms. Coupled with this will be an expanded microbiology capability at the Crary Laboratory at McMurdo Station to facilitate studies of adaptation, evolution, physiology, and behavior studies at the genome and proteome level.

  • Initiating drilling activities to probe strata from about 400,000 and 800,000 years ago when unusually warm periods were experienced in Antarctica. This will provide insights into the state and behavior of the Antarctic ice sheets that can directly build on ice sheet records and support climate modeling efforts. initiate drilling activities to probe strata from about 400,000 and 800,000 years ago when unusually warm periods were experienced In addition, ship-borne drilling capabilities will be developed to investigate paleo-climate and paleo-oceanography of the peninsula region, which is currently experiencing a warming. The International Cape Roberts Drilling Project, in pursuing climate records from earlier in the Cenozoic era, encountered strata that were not anticipated but that point to warmer intervals in the last 1.5 million years.

  • Initiating the Ross Island Meteorology Experiment (RIME), aimed at enhancing the understanding of Antarctica's dominant role in Southern Hemisphere meteorology and improving weather forecasting/modeling capabilities for operational and safety purposes.

Ongoing activities include:

  • Southern Ocean GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics), with the goal of understanding and ultimately predicting how populations of marine animal species interact with the physical environment and respond to natural and anthropogenic climate changes.

  • International Trans-Antarctic Science Expedition (ITASE), which investigates the last 200 years of climate in Antarctica in an effort to understand atmospheric composition and anthropogenic effects.

  • Continued operation of polar Long-Term Ecological Research sites (LTERs) as part of an international framework for ecosystem research.

  • Astrophysics research to address the origin of the universe, galaxies, and stars.

Operations and Science Support

The FY 2003 Budget Request for Operations and Science Support is $130.36 million, an increase of $4.2 million, or 3.3 percent, over the FY 2002 level of $126.16 million. Operations and Science Support makes research in Antarctica possible by providing the required research and life support facilities, food, fuel, environmental protection, health and safety and all other operational support for all U.S. research conducted on the continent, including research funded through other federal agencies (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Energy, and the Smithsonian Institution).

Operations and Science Support is also responsible for managing South Pole Station Modernization, an activity funded out of the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Account from FY 1998 through FY 2003. The new station will provide the infrastructure required for imaginative new science on the drawing board. Taking full advantage of the new station will require new efficiencies in delivering scientists and science supplies to remote locations and the South Pole and fuel to the South Pole.

FY 2003 priorities include:

  • Improving security at USAP facilities in Christchurch, New Zealand, in order to protect the safety of USAP scientists and support personnel as well as existing capital investments.

  • Developing a more flexible and robust transportation system. This includes enhancements in air operations as well as initial development of an overland traverse capability. With the completion of the new South Pole Station in 2006, the U.S. will have the premier research station in the Antarctic interior, setting the stage for U.S. leadership for many years to come. The traverse capability is needed in order to reduce dependence on LC-130 aircraft for delivering fuel and outsized scientific equipment to South Pole Station, and to enable LC-130 aircraft missions to focus on science support where their unique capability is most needed - in the deep field and wherever speed of delivery is essential. In FY 2003, necessary equipment will be procured to allow the proposed route between McMurdo and South Pole to be tested.

  • Initial planning for daily continuous high bandwidth communication from South Pole Station and installation of a wireless network in the Dry Valleys.

  • Initiating development of modern "business systems" to mesh the multitude of procurements and transportation requirements for improved efficiency and more effective science support. Present systems, developed in the era when computer systems were in their infancy, are obsolete.

  • Initiating work to replace the McMurdo power plant generators and switch gears and upgrading the plant's fire detection and suppression systems.

Science support and operations are provided primarily through a support contractor. A Polar Class U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker provides access to McMurdo Station for resupply ships. Other agencies and contractors also provide technical support in areas of expertise such as engineering, construction and communications. The estimated costs of these functions are displayed in the following table:

(Millions of Dollars)



FY 2001

FY 2002

FY 2003




Science Facilities, research ships, field camp operations, science support aircraft




Operations at McMurdo, South Pole and Palmer Stations




Transportation of people and cargo, materials and inventory




Engineering, construction and facilities maintenance




Data handling and communications




Waste management, fire protection, health and safety, quality assurance




U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker support




Total, Operations and Science Support




  Last Modified: Sep 17, 2004


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