Heading South: NIU Researchers To Study Antarctic

Nov 19, 2014

A group of Northern Illinois University researchers are bound for Antarctica to study the effect of climate change on rising seawaters.

Ross Powell and Reed Scherer in the Antarctic in early 2013.
Credit NIU Today

The trip was halted earlier this year due to the partial government shutdown.

It's a green light now.

NIU geology professor Ross Powell has been waiting his entire career to reach the part of the continent where a massive ice sheet meets the Ross Sea. He says he's looked at similar environments in different places around the world, but says this is the toughest one to deal with because the ice above it is so thick.

Powell says the Greenland ice sheet and the Antarctic contain so much water volume that as they melt they will dramatically rise sea levels. People are concerned how fast they are going to react to the warming, and how much volume of ice will be melted into the ocean.

The exploration will last just over a week. NIU researcher Reed Scherer says the team will have to work around the clock.

Credit NIU Today

Scherer says he has wanted to drill at the grounding zone (the place where the ocean is reaching the ice that's on the sea bed) since he was a graduate student.

Now, he gets to share the experience with current NIU geology students.  Graduate student Jason Coenen says he is excited to make the trek.

The team is expected to leave just after Christmas.