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Dr Harsh Vardhan Inaugurates The 12th International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences (Isaes) at Goa

Union Minister of Science and Technology and the minister for the Ministry of Earth Science (MOES) Dr. Harsh Vardhan, inaugurated the 12th International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences (ISAES) at a function in Goa today. Scientific sessions are scheduled for five days from 13-17th July 2015. Speaking on the occasion he said, Indian scientific expeditions to the continent hosting the southernmost frozen continent began nearly 35 years ago considering the fact that nature does not recognize political boundaries. Global influences on climate today have further proven this point.

Prof. Jeronimo Lopez-Martinez, President, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), was the guest of honour on the occasion.

The Themes for the Symposium include Antarctica and Supercontinent Evolution, Antarctic Surface Processes, Landscapes, and Links with Cryosphere and Climate, Antarctic Solid Earth Structure and Interactions with the Cryosphere: Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and Evolution of Climate and the Global Cryosphere, amongst others.

The International symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences (ISAES) is a SCAR-initiative aimed at showcasing Antarctic geoscience research, taking stock of the accomplishments of the International fraternity and providing guidance for future studies. The first ISAES was organised way back in 1963 at Cape Town, and the last one (11th) at Edinburgh, with the Symposium traversing through Oslo, Madison, Adelaide, Cambridge, Tokyo, Siena, Wellington, Potsdam and Santa Barbara. In its 50-year history, Japan has been the only Asian country to hold it with India being bestowed the honor to host the 12th such International symposium now.

Secretary, MOES Dr. Shailesh Nayak, will be presenting India’s perspective on geosciences research at the symposium. The R & D arm of the MOES, National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa are hosting and organizing the symposium

Dr. Harsh Vardhan earlier today inaugurated the newly created Isotrace Laboratory while he visited the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) at Vasco Da Gama, Goa for providing high quality stable isotope analysis of various natural elements for research.

India currently has two permanent stations, Maitri at Schirmacher oasis and Bharati in the Larsemann Hill area located ~1000km east of Maitri. The first Indian station, Dakshin Gangotri, located on shelf ice is now buried and lost.

Earth science and related activities have constituted not only an integral but an unbroken part of Indian expeditions. Globally the scientific progress and state of the studies in earth sciences is reviewed in a gathering of all polar nations at an interval of four years in the form of International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Science (ISAES). A total of 11 such symposiums have been held since 1963.

Antarctica is recognized as a heritage of mankind and as mandated by the provisions of the Antarctic treaty, signed by 29 consultative parties, no commercial activity is permitted in Antarctica and its environment and all claims to its territory are frozen. The scientific programs of this natural polar laboratory are designed and approved by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) which has a President and two to three vice-presidents and a small secretariat located at Cambridge, England. The science research programs are proposed and co-ordinated by three standing scientific groups (SSG’s) on Geosciences (GS), life sciences (LS) and physical sciences (PS) each having three chief officers.

ISAES symposium at Goa represents truly an international effort with participation from nearly 40 countries of around 400 scientists nearly equally divided between the overseas and the Indian participants. The deliberations through over thirty sessions in five days are expected to lead to consolidation of the status of scientific studies and provide guidance for future research. Of particular interest is the nature of sub-ice rocks as 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice with an average thickness of ~2000m and large areas of continent are not accessible to direct observation. This information is crucial to predict the behaviour of melting of ice which in the eventuality of complete melting is estimated to lead to the global sea level rise of ~60m. It is only one example of the significance of studies on Antarctic science. Both the atmosphere over Antarctica as well as the ocean surrounding this southern continent has strong influences on global weather patterns and ocean currents which directly affect the mankind.

The two-way interaction between the global and Indian polar scientific community is expected to lead to reinvigoration of Indian Antarctic programs.