Greenland, Andy Mahoney Image courtesy Andy Mahoney
Greenland, Andy Mahoney Image courtesy Andy Mahoney


Climate change in the 20th and 21st centuries is dramatically affecting the polar regions, and carries additional risk for global systems. Permafrost degradation, receding Arctic sea ice, earlier melt-out and later freeze-up of sea ice along the Antarctic Peninsula, and accelerating mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers are increasingly transforming the polar environment. Many of these changes may have global impacts with huge potential socio-economic costs that make understanding polar systems an urgent priority.

Understanding the underlying mechanisms and the links between polar and global systems requires a combination of field data, high-resolution observations from satellites, airborne imagery, and computer model outputs. Despite these data- and compute-intensive scientific needs, Polar Science is currently poorly represented in the use of High-Performance and Distributed Computing (HPDC).

As a first step in bridging the gap, the HPDC needs of the Polar Science community must be understood, articulated, integrated and aligned in the context of national and international cyberinfrastructure. Connecting the HPDC and Polar Science communities will ensure that plans for NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure take these needs into account. In addition, programs can be designed to educate and train Polar Scientists in the skills needed to realize the opportunities and potential of HPDC.

It all starts with communication. It is the aim of the Polar Research Coordination Network to provide a venue for multi-dimensional, sustained engagement among the Polar Science, Data and HPDC communities to enable deeper penetration of computing methods and cyberinfrastructure into the polar sciences.