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Almost all science experiments will benefit from more periods of Internet connectivity, increased bandwidth, and familiar software environments. Better communications will also benefit staffing, because experts will not necessarily have to be at the station to help maintain and configure the systems.
The wide area network access provides a vital suite of services for the science community including experiment monitoring, anomaly diagnosis, consulting, data transfer for concurrent analysis, time critical data entry into databases such as weather (WMO) and seismic monitoring (AFTAC), and remote experiment control. There are two access requirements, throughput and availability - the present desire for throughput is about 1 GByte/day, and the desire for availability is 24 hour coverage.
The cost-effectiveness of WAN access cannot be overemphasized. Prior to availability of the WAN, winter experiments at Amundsen-Scott station would commonly spend one season collecting data, a second season analyzing that data and designing fixes for anomalies in the data, and a third season testing the fixes. With WAN access, experimenters can examine the data in near real-time, diagnose anomalies and (often) implement fixes during the same season, providing a factor of two or more reduction in the cost of fielding successful experiments. Fast mail access, and the availability of teleconferencing, when required, facilitates correct diagnosis and repair of failures in complex equipment. The ability to interact directly with experiments from the US provides another dimension to improving the overall throughput of experiments. It makes it possible to vary the experimental paradigms on short time scales, to adapt the experiment to short-lived physical phenomena, and to include a much greater depth of scientific expertise than is possible with the small winter- over population. The participation of a wider community can also improve the acceptance and demand for the Antarctic program.
The ability to provide data to time-critical databases is also important for the stature of the Antarctic station. Data must be entered into the World Meteorological Organization system within about four hours to be included in predictive weather models. For seismic monitoring, the data must be on-line, with delays no greater than 30 minutes and having few accessibility gaps, to be relevant for AFTAC monitoring. The data from Amundsen-Scott station have important, unique characteristics for these databases, and would be in great demand if they could be provided in a timely fashion.
The complex science experiments that CARA and AMANDA are now attempting to conduct at the pole have been predicated on increasingly better communications to the Pole. Indeed, communication has moved from a minor support tool to being integral to the experiments themselves. Communication is so critical to these major astrophysical projects, that they run a reasonable risk of failure, if adequate communications are not provided in the form of (1) phone service to CONUS from the work areas, (2) reasonable Internet connections several times a day, and (3) large data throughput capabilities. Failure to improve existing communications as soon as possible will threaten not only the effectiveness of the South Pole science operations, but also the external perceptions of the feasibility of conducting complex research programs at the South Pole.
The effect on seismology, for example, of failing to provide suitable data throughput includes a loss South Pole contributions for highly visible analyses of major earthquakes, and a potential loss of a season's data if an instrument malfunction goes undetected. The effect of failing to achieve sufficient coverage in a 24 hour period is that of losing the possibility of joint participations and contributions from the Air Force.
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