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Additional Oceania/Antarctica Research Projects

A World-class Radar

cp2 radar

NCAR’s CP-2 radar (foreground) collected important atmospheric data for many years. (Photo by James Wilson, NCAR.)

For three decades, NCAR’s CP-2 radar proved an important tool for scientists studying hailstorms, tornadoes, wind shear, and other hazardous weather events. It played a major role in the discovery of microbursts, which can menace airplanes if undetected. By the mid-1990s, however, researchers needed something more mobile, and they built a new radar, called S-Pol.

But the older radar, which can distinguish snowflakes from raindrops over 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, proved too sophisticated to scrap and too expensive for any university to maintain. NCAR searched the world for an agency that could take advantage of the CP-2’s advanced capabilities and also provide NSF researchers with an opportunity to team up on projects relevant to meteorology in the United States.

The perfect agency, it turned out, was the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre. The bureau maintains a dense network of supporting rain gauges and streamflow gauges in a hilly area prone to flash flooding. The CP-2, which was shipped to the bureau in 2003, will perform double duty, warning the public about flash floods and helping international research teams answer questions about hydrology and meteorology.



The Future of Polar Ice

Polar ice fields cool the atmosphere by reflecting a high percentage of solar radiation back into space. If global warming drastically shrinks Earth’s polar ice fields, more solar radiation will be absorbed by land and sea surfaces, which could lead to even higher temperatures.

NCAR scientists are collaborating with their colleagues across the United States and overseas to improve the polar ice components of the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model, a powerful computer tool for studying global climate of the past, present, and future. Important goals include simulating the ebb and flow of sea ice over the next two centuries, as well as examining alterations to higher-latitude ocean currents and polar impacts on atmospheric conditions and circulation.

This NASA satellite image, taken during the Antarctic summer, shows drifting icebergs that have split from the Larsen Ice Shelf. Such naturally occurring events may become more widespread if Antarctic summer temperatures increase. For a NASA animation of an ice shelf collapse, click here. (Photo courtesy Landstat 7 Science Team and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.)

NCAR scientist Marika Holland is one of the key researchers in the effort. Working with Hugues Goosse of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, she is studying the natural variability of Arctic sea ice to glean insights into human impacts on polar climate. Her research indicates that sea ice will thin significantly over the next century, and its surface area will eventually dwindle dramatically in summer months.

Such changes would have considerable consequences for societies and ecosystems that live along polar regions, as well as for the world’s climate system.

Oceania/Antarctica Collaborations:

Assisting Antarctica Rescues

Wildfires in Australia

A World-class Radar

The Future of Polar Ice

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