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Congressional Testimony, 2006

Statement of Dr. Thomas R. Armstrong, Program Coordinator Earth Surface Dynamics
U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior

Before the Senate Committee On Commerce, Science and Transportation and Foreign Relations

September 26, 2006

Thank you for the opportunity to address you and the committees on the issue of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) activities related to the International Polar Year (IPY). My name is Thomas Armstrong, and I am the Program Coordinator for the Earth Surface Dynamics Program at USGS. I also represent USGS and the Department of the Interior (DOI) on the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program’s Climate working group, and activities related to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.

Background
The USGS serves the United States by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth, minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters, manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and, enhance and protect our quality of life. It is within the spirit of this mission that the USGS has developed plans for participation in the International Polar Year, working with partners in DOI, with other Federal and State agencies, and with scientific colleagues around the world.

The IPY will extend from March 2007 through March 2009. This period will commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1957–1958 International Geophysical Year. The IGY, as it was called, was modelled on the International Polar Years of 1882-1883 and 1932-1933 and was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena. The work of scientists from over 60 countries literally spanned the globe from the North to the South Poles. Although much work was carried out in the arctic and equatorial regions, special attention was given to the Antarctic, where research on ice depths yielded radically new estimates of the earth's total ice content. In a similar spirit of discovery and understanding, IPY ’07-’09 is envisioned as an intense scientific campaign to explore new frontiers in polar science and to improve our understanding of the critical role of the polar regions in global processes. Most significantly, IPY is envisioned as an opportunity to engage the public in polar discovery and help attract the next generation of earth scientists.

Within current funding amounts, the USGS will participate in the IPY through extension and enhancement of programmatic activities in research, assessment, and monitoring in the Polar Regions that support the scientific mission of our organization and address the themes and goals of the IPY. These activities span the biologic, geologic, hydrologic, geographic, and information sciences and will include but not be limited to:

Beginning with the very first geophysical and geological surveys carried out in Antarctica over a half-century ago, the USGS has maintained a long tradition of scientific monitoring, assessment, and research in the Polar Regions. The USGS has an extensive history of activities including topographic mapping and geodetic control in Antarctica, satellite and ground-based monitoring of glaciers and ice caps, research on movements, distribution patterns and adaptation of polar wildlife, operation of a seismic array at the South Pole, estimations of energy resources of the circum-Arctic, mapping of the distribution of circum-arctic vegetation, and the development of paleoclimate records from Alaskan sediments and polar ice cores.

USGS participation in the International Polar Year allows the agency to celebrate this enduring tradition with the global polar research community and to renew our commitment to polar science at a time when the eyes of the world are focused on these fragile regions.

Numerous USGS programs are involved in research, assessment, and monitoring in the Polar Regions that support the scientific mission of the USGS and the Department of the Interior, and address the themes and goals of the IPY. Some of these specific activities and related products are listed below.

  1. Research and long term monitoring of the polar regions

    Products and activities include:

  2. USGS Facilities and Resources for Arctic and Antarctic Research

    The USGS includes numerous facilities throughout the United States and Antarctica that are focused on activities that directly link to the International Polar Year. These facilities include:



    In addition to work being done by the USGS, other agencies within the Department of the Interior are planning to carry out activities incorporating International Polar Year components. Most notably:

This concludes my testimony. My intention was to leave you with an accurate portrayal of just some of the Department of the Interior’s many science, monitoring, and assessment studies and related support infrastructure that are firmly within the scope and spirit of the International Polar Year. I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, and I look forward to answering any questions that you may have.

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