It’s truly a sad day for Antarctica. Because of the government furlough, science operations in Antarctica is being shut down as funds dry up, as a “result of the absence of appropriation and the Antideficiency Act.”, according to the official USAP.gov website.
Amidst all of the other shakeup and struggle operations in Antarctica have gone through in recent years, I’m sad to hear that another setback has fallen on operations on the ice. So much good science and engineering research is being done there, it’s a shame that the small fraction of the budget that is needed to support the USAP has been suspended. A breakdown of the actual cost of the program, from Change.org:
The total cost of the USAP program is approximately $350 million dollars. A value added amount of money which is small in terms of the $3.8 trillion dollar total budget that would be trivial not to have congress authorize a portion of it to allow international science to continue.
With any luck, the furlough will end soon, and funds will be made available again before too much of the continent has been emptied out. Effects of the shutdown, from Change.org:
The effects this shutdown will be the loss of continuity in projects that have been ongoing since the International Geophysical Year (IGY) some 50 years ago. Scientific data such as the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) which has been ongoing for 30 years will have a large data gap in at a crucial time in our understanding of climate change. A similar problem would be the abrupt end to 11 years of continuous data on the solar cycle that is used, for example, by the UC Boulder Lidar project. Since solar cycles are 11 years long, missing this last critical bit of data could jeopardize the multi-year investment. Also threatened is our understanding of rapidly changing ecosystems that is being generated by the study of Penguins in the Palmer Peninsula.
The full explanation on USAP.gov reads:
Planning and Implementation of Caretaker Status for U.S. Antarctic Program
October 8, 2013
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is responsible for managing and coordinating the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) on behalf of the nation. This includes providing support personnel and facilities and coordinating transportation and other logistics for scientific research. Due to the lapse in appropriation, funds for this support will be depleted on or about October 14, 2013.
Without additional funding, NSF has directed its Antarctic support contractor to begin planning and implementing caretaker status for research stations, ships and other assets. The agency is required to take this step as a result of the absence of appropriation and the Antideficiency Act.
Under caretaker status, the USAP will be staffed at a minimal level to ensure human safety and preserve government property, including the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended.
As NSF moves to caretaker status, it will also develop the information needed to restore the 2013-14 austral summer research program to the maximum extent possible, once an appropriation materializes. It is important to note, however, that some activities cannot be restarted once seasonally dependent windows for research and operations have passed, the seasonal workforce is released, science activities are curtailed and operations are reduced.
NSF remains committed to protecting the safety and health of its deployed personnel and to its stewardship of the USAP under these challenging circumstances.
More coverage of this story:
- Thanks to Government Shutdown, It’s About to Get Really Lonely in Antarctica on Slate
- Continued Shutdown Would Spell The End Of U.S. Scientific Research In Antarctica This Year on Think Progress
- U.S. Antarctic research victim of shutdown; losses are irreplaceable on LA Times
- Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into ‘Caretaker Status’ on NPR
- Shutdown Cancels US Antarctic Research Program on Discovery