NDSU professors receive grant for Antarctica climate researchDr. Adam Lewis knows what it’s like to be alone. Since 1998, the North Dakota State University geosciences professor has been spending time in the mountains of Antarctica, a place without many life forms.
By: By Stephanie Fail, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Dr. Adam Lewis knows what it’s like to be alone.
Since 1998, the North Dakota State University geosciences professor has been spending time in the mountains of Antarctica, a place without many life forms.
“No wildlife, no insects, no birds. You and your friends would be the only living things,” he said.
“Antarctica is about as alone as you can be.”
The isolation has paid off. Aside from affording Lewis, and his NDSU colleague Dr. Ken Lepper, to study inland melting patterns in a rare locale, it’s also earned them a $292,568 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund research to record ice melt patterns and how Antarctica has contributed to rising sea levels in the past.
“We are very excited about this grant because it gives us the opportunity to take NDSU students to Antarctica,” Lewis said.
The grant money will be spent mostly on stipends for the students who accompany the professors to the Antarctic mountains.
Lewis was excited for the opportunity to tie more future geologists to North Dakota. Since natural resources such as oil and coal are big industries in North Dakota, Lewis sees lots of potential for NDSU to strengthen the state’s workforce through education.
But before they might enrich North Dakota, the students will be sharpening their skills on the other end of the planet, a place very different from our currently wet state.
“We work in the Transantarctic Mountains, one of the driest places on Earth, where it only snows a few inches a year.” Lewis said. “It’s a moon-like landscape with no water.
“You can see the little channels coming down the mountains, so we thought it must get warm enough to carry water.”
The research will contribute unique information on inland melting patterns that will help climate modelers to understand the effects of global warming in Antarctica.
By studying the flow patterns of gravel and sand left by water in the mountains, the students back home work with Dr. Lepper to date the samples to determine when temperatures were last warm enough to cause the melt.
Early research suggests a melt of the snow and ice on top of these mountains occurs every 50,000 years in sync with the Earth’s long-range orbit.
“The organisms that can survive in Antarctica there are just barely able to hang on, so only a tiny change may be disastrous,” Lewis said.
“The last time it was warm enough to melt was 10,000 years ago. I know this research is controversial but the climate is changing and it is important to gather background information.”
Stephanie Fail is a reporter at the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.