Thursday, October 10, 2013

UPDATE - Nat'l Science Foundation CANCELS its Antarctic Research Programs

Updated October 19th - official statement regarding announcement of plans to salvage the 2013 research season for American scientists are posted at the bottom of this post.

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I read the news today, oh boy.  
The TeaParty's strategy of undermining our government in the hope of crippling it, is producing cascading consequences who's damaging impacts will be felt for years to come.  

In the science and global warming research arena untold millions of dollars will be totally wasted, as important research programs are cancelled.  Not to mention the human toll -  wasted planning and preparation; research programs requiring ongoing work will be devastated; careers sidelined; and of course, then there is the more subtle impact of disillusionment and creeping hopelessness of being under the thumb of leaders who couldn't care less about science, and in fact, believe it can be disregarded at will.

I went to the NSF website to read their announcement - but the website is basically shut down. Turns out the announcement can be found at the United States Arctic Program website.  Here I share the beginning of the LiveScience report, a link to an NPR story, the USAP announcement,  followed by a look at what the NSF website's has to say, then I finish with part of a personal account from McMurdo Station that's been posted at

It is a genuine tragedy that our neo-Republican leaders have become so trapped within their own ideology straightjacketed minds and the Washington "Bubble", {where obsessing over re-election, fund raising and personal advancement is the order of the day}, with the collective interest of our nation being nothing more than a pawn in their game of self aggrandizement.  

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Shutdown Cancels US Antarctic Research Program

"As scientists had feared, today (Oct. 8) the National Science Foundation announced it was canceling the U.S. Antarctic research program for this year because of the ongoing government shutdown.
Scientists and contractors already stationed at the three U.S. science bases on Antarctica will be sent home and a small staff left behind to maintain the structures and equipment, the National Science Foundation (NSF) said.
The announcement was a devastating blow for the polar science community. The shutdown means the cancellation of millions of dollars of planned research. Graduate students may have to stay in school longer because they won't get the data they need to complete their research. Contractors are losing their jobs. Other countries, including New Zealand, France and Italy, rely on the United States' sea-ice runway at McMurdo Station and may not be able to conduct their own research after the pullout. [Weirdest Effects of the Shutdown] ..."
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"... Other projects that could be affected by the pullout include NASA's Operation IceBridge, which tracks yearly changes in the polar ice, as well as the ongoing monitoring of climate change. Interrupting the unbroken data sets researchers gather to gauge global warming makes it difficult to analyze trends, many scientists have said."   {link to the full story}
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NPR News
Shutdown Forces Antarctic Research Into 'Caretaker Status'
October 08, 2013

Earlier this week we told you that scientists who do research in Antarctica have been on pins and needles, worried that the government shutdown would effectively cancel all of their planned field work this year.

Well, those scientists just got the news they didn't want to hear.
Today, officials at the U.S. Antarctic Program posted a statement online saying they are moving to "caretaker" status at the three U.S. research stations, ships and other assets, and all research activities not essential to human safety and the preservation of property will be stopped. ..."

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.
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Finally, this: 

Due to the lapse in government funding, National Science Foundation websites and business applications, including, FastLane, and will be unavailable until further notice. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.  
Updates regarding government operating status and resumption of normal operations can be found at
In cases of imminent threat to life or property, please call the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-428-2189.
Employees interested in applying for unemployment compensation should click on the following link for more information: (Employees can obtain copies of their w-2 and leave and earnings statements, which may be needed to file for unemployment, by visiting employee express at
Important Guidance for the Proposer and Awardee community can be found below.
This guidance addresses the various assistance and contract-related policy and systems issues that may arise during the shutdown of the Federal Government. NSF is providing this information as a service to our proposer and awardee communities as well as our contractors in the hopes that it will address most of the questions you may have during this time period.
Please be aware that, except as noted below, NSF will not be available to respond to emails or phone calls during the shutdown, but will respond to your inquiries as soon as practicable after normal operations have been resumed. NSF is committed to minimizing the negative impacts this disruption may have on the science and engineering enterprise and, as necessary, will issue follow-on guidance after the shutdown ends. ...
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For an insiders perspective, here's a sad tale that a commenter linked me to.  It's from someone who is at McMurdo Station, Antarctica:

... We are going to “caretaker status”. What does that mean? We do not entirely know. But we know the losses are huge. In the media they are talking about the international bevy of scientists who will not be able to do science this year at any of our three stations: McMurdo, Amundsen-Scott South Pole, and Palmer. Much of this science has been decades of research and scientific continuity leading to incredible breakthroughs in understanding our world and the cosmos and our role in it. Science is closed for the season. For the year. There will be no science. A few rare experiments will continue simply because, like IceCube at the South Pole, it is necessary that the building and the instruments it contains be maintained. It cannot go cold, to do so would destroy not just the year’s data, but the entire multimillion dollar system.
For those of us who support that science, well….
If science goes away, what do we support?
We support the survival of the facilities and the safety of those of us who will remain as caretakers. Nothing more than that.
That doesn’t take many people. We have almost 500 people here at McMurdo Station right this minute. That’s about 375 too many. I may be one of the many, I may be one of the few. We do not know yet who will go or who will stay.
What remains for us to do is to shut down the station as if we were heading into a Winter in November, not March. We will continue to support South Pole Station, not just to get those poor benighted winterovers of 2013 out of there–it has been a hard season (I understate) but that is not my topic to pursue; it’s not my story to tell–but to make sure that all the food and fuel they need to survive next winter (Feb-Nov 2014) is provided them. That takes an entire South Pole Summer (Nov-Feb) to achieve. South Pole station cannot go cold, cold there would be irreversible. But their summer can be shut down to Winter staffing levels (50ish vs summer’s 150ish).
Supporting South Pole resupply requires aircraft operations and the South Pole Traverse. That will keep some people employed at McMurdo and Pole.
However, the rest of us? Not so very necessary. We will shut station down à la winter, with buildings that were just recently warmed up and brought online after last Winter, shut back down again. That’ll use a few folks for a little bit. And those of us needed to support that effort will stick around too. ...

Even if the Republicans have revelations about their utter stupidity and fuckwittedness and get back to fucking work within a week, we won’t. We don’t get backpay. We won’t get called back to restart the season. Our raison d’être is science. Science is canceled. Science is seasonal. Krill don’t happen year round, nor do penguins and seals, or algae. Or fish or whales or albatrosses or access to glacier melt ponds or volcanoes. If it doesn’t happen now, it doesn’t happen this year.
Mostly we are sad. Frustrated. Angry at our government and ashamed to be Americans. ...
For the entire story please link to the blog "Ice White and Blue"


Update: Resumption of U.S. Antarctic Program Operating Season

October 18, 2013

As you know, the U.S. Antarctic Program was adversely impacted by the recent 16-day partial government shutdown. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was required to suspend certain activities in Antarctica just as we had begun our active austral summer season. However, with funding under a continuing resolution in place, staff members at both NSF and the Antarctic Support Contractor are working hard to restore as much of the planned activities as safely possible. This includes restarting suspended science projects to the maximum extent practicable.
NSF decisions about priorities for restart are conditioned by factors such as continuity of long-term data sets, time-criticality of observations or studies, impacts on young or early career investigators, and international or interagency partnerships. Our deliberations have been, and will continue to be, informed by input provided by the potentially affected Principal Investigators. Program Directors are balancing these many factors in making their recommendations to me as Head of Antarctic Sciences for final determination. Unfortunately, because we plan activities to take full advantage ofthe limited austral summer season, the 16-day interruption has already resulted in deferral of some projects and additional projects will be impacted. We are committed to a rational process to restore as much of our original science plan as safely possible.
With most Program Directors just returning to work after this hiatus, they will need to assimilate a lot o f information in a short time in order to make timely and informed recommendations. I anticipate that they will be reaching out to you within the next few days and would appreciate your responsiveness when they do. Of course, if you have information you feel is critical for your Program Director to have in the near term, please do communicate that information via e-mail. I expect that we will be able to resume normal communications by the middle of next week.
Some of you will have also been impacted by the NSF shutdown with respect to proposal and award processing, participation in panels and meetings and other things. Please refer to the NSF web-site for guidance on these issues (see:
Thank you for your patience and understanding in our efforts to support the important science that comprises the USAP.
Scott Borg
Head, Antarctic Sciences Section

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October 17, 2013
From the United States Antarctic Program Web Portal
With the partial government shutdown now ended, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will restore the planned 2013-14 austral summer U. S. Antarctic Program (USAP) activities to the maximum extent possible. 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 lack of availability of funds, NSF directed all support elements of the USAP to implement an orderly transition toward “caretaker status” for research stations, ships and other assets. The agency was required to take this step in accordance with the Antideficiency Act.
In caretaker status, the USAP is staffed at a minimal level to ensure safety of life and preserve property at each of the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to life safety and preservation of property are suspended.
Initial actions toward caretaker status were implemented in recent days. Planned deployments of scientific and support staff were either disrupted or cancelled, and in some cases personnel were removed from Antarctica. With funding in place under a continuing resolution, NSF is directing all efforts towards an orderly resumption of seasonal activities.
Over the coming days, NSF will work with the USAP support organizations and researchers to recover planned research and operations activities to the extent possible. It must be understood that due to seasonally dependent windows and logistic limitations, certain research and operations activities may be deferred.
All critical logistics and support systems have and will remain operational during the recovery phase of operations. NSF intends to continue to operate the USAP air link between Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and will continue plans for ship resupply of bulk cargo, fuel and icebreaking.
NSF remains committed to protecting the safety and health of its deployed personnel and to its stewardship of the USAP as Antarctic operations are restored. Additional guidance and instructions for USAP researchers and personnel will be provided through the U.S. Antarctic Program web portal in the near future.
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Also see the informative article by Andrew Freedman

Post Shutdown, U.S. Tries to Salvage Antarctic Research


Anonymous said...

From Antarctica:

Anonymous said...

Woman at McMurdo blogs here;

citizenschallenge said...

Here's a comment from that GB wrote at
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"I can see that people who don’t live in the U.S. don’t realize that a group of far right wing extremists are holding the U.S. budget hostage to attempt to nullify existing law, specifically the Affordable Care Act. If the President goes along with this hostage taking he will be able to accomplish nothing the rest of his presidency. These extremists would have an effective line item veto on everything done in Washington. ...