8 December 2009

It's not easy going to the South Pole- but it's going to be worth It!

Posted by Dan Satterfield

image from geology.com

Antarctica image from geology.com

As you may know if you read these ramblings frequently, I am headed to the bottom of the world in three weeks. The National Science Foundation accepted an application from myself and Ann Posegate of the Nat. Env. Education Foundation to visit Antarctica to spread the word about the science and the scientists at the bottom of the world.

So once you get selected what happens next? You don’t just hop a plane to New Zealand. (That’s where you leave from). Nope, the first thing you do is read a 34 page sheet of medical forms you have to complete. I didn’t know you could test blood for that many things! I’m just hoping they can do all the tests with one sample! Then there is the dental examination. I have more crowns on display than the Tower of London. (They cost about as much too) It looks like I will be getting some dental work done.

To be sure, the tests make sense. If I survive them!

There are no hospitals in Antarctica and if you suddenly get ill, you have to be flown back to New Zealand. That’s at least a 5 hour jet ride and if no jet is available, an 8 hour ride. Most of the flights in and out of the American bases are flown by the New York Air National Guard. Fortunately for me I do not have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. That’s just for those who will be wintering over in Antarctica. (My wife says that getting to skip that exam means I get to go after all!)

It will be worth it. Oh will it!

Where I will be going in Antarctia (Red Ovals). The ice cores of interest to climate researchers are being taken in West Antarctica. Image from Geology.com ( A great site by the way!)

Where I will be going in Antarctia (Red Ovals). The ice cores of interest to climate researchers are being taken in West Antarctica. Image from Geology.com ( A great site by the way!)

Very few people will ever visit Antarctica, and even fewer can say they have stood at the very bottom of the world. (Expected temp is -30C) I am not going for travel though. I am going because I want to see for myself the people and the science in the last great wilderness left on planet Earth.

It takes a rare person to work there. Everyone I have met who has done so has several things in common. They are all bright. Very bright. They all seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge. They all know just how important what they are doing is.

In an era where a loud minority of Americans are attacking science for political and or religious reasons, they persevere. In spite of the politics and in spite of the cold. In spite of people stealing their emails and then misinterpreting what they say because they never made it though high school physics. In spite of all that.

Screen shot 2009-12-08 at 03.53.57The UK Prime Minister called the shrill voices screaming about the stolen climate emails flat earthers’ last week. The news media tends to give these people more coverage than their numbers warrant and I know many climate researchers who wonder what happened to education in America!

In reality though, the numbers have changed little. These are the people that will not change their minds, no matter how many facts and peer reviewed papers you show them. 97% of the world publishing climate researchers will tell you the world is warming and we are causing it, but this small minority will believe a talk radio host who didn’t finish high school over all that!

When you get to that point, you are wasting your breath!

Most people have questions on the science and that’s one reason I spend so much time updating this blog. Most are not really fooled by all those people screaming about a hoax and cover-up. So if you are a climate researcher, take some advice from a synoptic meteorologists who has been in TV for 30 ears. Things aren’t that bad!

The majority gets it. They understand and they are worried. They want to know more and they want to know the real science. Not the politics.

So when I go to Antarctica, I am going to be asking questions about the real science. Not the junk science on web sites funded by oil interests. For the first time in human history we are experimenting with our planet on a large scale. We need to know what the results of that experiment are before it’s too late.

That’s only one reason for doing science in the harshest location on Earth.

But it’s enough don’t you think?



PS a group of Science students from the Univ. of Michigan are in Copenhagen covering the Climate conference. The greatest gathering of world leaders in history is tackling that issue right now. I know we MUST reduce the carbon we put in the atmosphere. How we do that is a political question.  The perspective of these young scientists to be should be worth reading. Go here!