Research Matters

Research Matters

West Antarctic Ice Sheet

It will be freezing and desolate. But the West Antarctic ice sheet holds scientific mysteries that KU graduate student Anthony Hoch wants to solve.

Aired November 23, 2008


2 minutes (2.7 MB) | Download mp3

Transcript

A student researcher braves Antarctica to gauge ice thickness. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

It will be freezing and desolate. But the West Antarctic ice sheet holds scientific mysteries that KU graduate student Anthony Hoch wants to solve. While he completes his doctoral degree in geophysics, Hoch works as a data analyst with the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, a group that predicts the response of sea level to changes in ice sheets.

Anthony Hoch: I'll be operating a ground-penetrating radar in order to look at ice thickness and to see what's at the bottom of the ice - and anything else we can see. A lot of people say they know exactly how much ice is down there, but until you actually measure it, we don't know for sure. As far as sea level rise goes - until you know how much ice there is, you don't know how much water there could be.

This month Hoch travels to New Zealand and then will ride on a military transport to McMurdo Station on Antarctica to undergo survival training. Next, he'll fly to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Base and set out on a five-day trek across the bitter plane - to be followed by a month of living inside a tent. His research will be highly focused.

Anthony Hoch: I don't really look at if the ice is melting or not. My research is dedicated at each individual field site where I work. Internationally, there are a large number of groups that work together to gather this data. Then, they put all the data together to determine if overall the ice is melting or not. But I just collect the data. I don't form the opinions that are released.

While Hoch plans for the work to yield important results, he recognizes the challenges of scientific investigation in a bone-chilling climate.

Anthony Hoch: Machinery breaks down. Sometimes, we can fix it in the field. But Antarctica is not a very friendly environment for putting electronics back together. So we take spare parts and we're well-trained on how to fix equipment in the field - but things do break.

For more on the West Antarctic ice sheet, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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West Antarctic Ice Sheet

A student researcher braves Antarctica to gauge ice thickness and help gauge a possible rise in ocean levels worldwide.

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