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U. of U. professor, 2 students head to Antarctica for study

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Aug. 24, 2012 at 9:29 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A professor of mathematics and two students at the University of Utah are preparing for a hazardous two-month mission to Antarctica.

In two weeks, U. of U. Professor Kenneth Golden and about 50 scientists from nine countries will leave to spend seven weeks on an Australian icebreaker steaming out of Tasmania to Antarctica, and once there, the ship will be used as a basecamp for their studies of sea ice.

The experience will not be a new one for Golden, though, as this trip will count as his 14th to the polar regions.

"You get this realization all of a sudden, ‘I'm 2,000 miles from anywhere, there's killer whales all over the place. There's leopard seals. There's 40-foot waves,'" Golden said of his trips.

Golden and the rest of the scientists will be calculating the movement, melting, and interaction with the changing climate of sea ice. They will take samples of ice, examine it, and even take its pulse electrically. The idea is to help improve computer models that predict the course of global warming.

"It's one thing to sit in your office and try to prove theorems about a very complicated system if you've never seen it," Golden said. "But it's another thing to go down there and see what's important."

Mathematics doctorate student Christian Sampson is taking the trip to understand the ice better, too.

"It's a little bit daunting. But it's also very exciting," Sampson said. "…As we really include sea-ice into these models it think it will help better those predictions (of global warming)."

"We'd like to be able to make better predictions of how our climate is changing," Golden said. "And sea-ice is one of our principle components of our climate system. However, it is also one of the greatest sources of uncertainty."

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