彭蒙惠英语:20110108 MP3在线课程 Antarctica: A Frozen Hotbed of Research

时间 : 2013-11-07 07:48来源 : VOA官网 收听下载次数 :
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January 8

The Antarctic Peninsula, the northernmost spit of land jutting up toward South America, is rapidly thawing. Since 1950, average midwinter temperatures there have climbed almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit and now range around 14 degrees.

Such data, goes the mainstream consensus, suggest the planet's climate is changing faster than ever before.

The warming here is the fastest on the planet, five times that of the rest of the globe.

Antarctica holds 91 percent of the Earth's ice. So scientists have a whole lot of measuring to do.

New lessons to learn

Even at 35, the geologist Barbeau possesses the persona of a brainy hippie backpacking between hostels rather than that of a professor leading polar expeditions.

His work in the slow-moving field of geology plays into the rush to understand climate change by looking at a critical question: Did glaciers take over Antarctica after it split free from South America, or before?

"It's a matter of stumbling on the right problem," Barbeau said, recognizing that by feeding the chic niche of climate science, his work stands much more likely to draw grants and prestige.

At work, he is a wiry prospector wielding a small pickax and an undersized sledgehammer and toting as much as 80 pounds of rocks over miles of snow. Where Amundsen used a compass and a sextant, Barbeau marks his finds with a Garmin satellite navigator.

And where Amundsen learned the value of dogs and fur garments, Barbeau has come to appreciate less is more. Just enough clothing to keep an active man from shivering, just enough gear to pry rocks loose from a mountainside.

"Every minute on the ground is precious," he said. "Fewer trips back and forth from the boat mean more time at work, more energy and more focus."

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