Polar Infrastructure

Understanding climate change: Consistently facilitating excellent science with global impact

Operated by the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC’s) British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s Antarctic research stations support multidisciplinary cross-sector science, including innovation in engineering in extreme environments.

Consistently facilitating excellent science with global impact, discoveries to date include:

  • The hole in the ozone layer which resulted in the reduction of negative UV effects via the Montreal Protocol
  • Plastic microbeads at the South Pole which led to NERC science informing the UK government’s ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK from 2018
  • Improved projections of ice-sheet change and sea-level rise – giving the world a better understanding of our changing climate

From 2020, the UK’s new £200 million polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, will support up to 60 scientists on board with state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, including remote and autonomous underwater vehicles.

The first UK polar research vessel equipped with a helipad and a scientific moon pool, the vessel will operate in both the Antarctic and the Arctic. It represents just one more component in the research infrastructure so vital for shedding fresh light on how the polar regions are changing in response to natural and human-driven pressures, and to build a clearer picture of how this affects the Earth’s climate.


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