A Visit to Antarctica with Dr. Anandakrishnan - Part 1
[MUSIC PLAYING] SRIDHAR ANANDAKRISHNAN: Hi my name's Sridhar Anandakrishnan. I'm an associate professor of geosciences at Penn State University.
I'm going to give you a short bio, a little bit of background about myself. I first went to Antarctica-- gosh-- almost 30 years ago in 1985. It was the first time I went down. I went down just as a worker on a project with some other folks that were studying these glaciers.
I just went there to look around and to help out on the project. I was captivated by the, really, the stark and uncompromising beauty of the continent. And I decided I want to study this.
Over the years, I discovered that not only was it personally fulfilling because I was working in a beautiful place, but it was also important for the rest of the planet. What happens in Antarctica doesn't just stay in Antarctica. It actually comes out and affects the rest of us here. And I've enjoyed very much being a part of that-- that search.
What got me most interested in glacial climate change was originally simply I wanted to be in Antarctica. And one of the most important things about Antarctica is how it's going to change in the future as we continue to pump carbon dioxide, CO2 into the atmosphere, as the temperature starts to increase-- continues to increase, what does it do to the ice of Antarctica?
That's what originally got me interested in it. But since then, one of the things that sustains my interest is what's going to happen to people who depend on water from glaciers, fresh water from glaciers-- people in the Mountain West of this country, people in the Andes, and most importantly to me, people in India and Bangladesh and Pakistan, who depend on meltwater from glaciers in Himalayan mountain range.
And as temperatures increase, those glaciers are melting and being lost at an increasingly rapid pace. And so the future looks very bleak for those people. We need to understand this.
So when I'm in Antarctica, our days are divided, really, into three parts. One part is simply surviving, living-- waking up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding ourselves and making communications.
We've got to call folks back home and let them know we're OK. If they don't hear from us for a day or two days, then they'll send out a rescue airplane. Because we're in such a remote place, we have to keep very close touch with our base station.
It's just four of us out there in the middle of the glacier and not another person for maybe 500 miles in any direction and just four of us in our tents and our gear. So the first thing that we do out there is just make sure we're safe, make sure that we're happy, healthy, things are going OK.
The second thing that we do out there is do our work-- wake up in the morning. We've taking care of ourselves. The next thing is we have to go out and do the work that the National Science Foundation is paying us to do, that Penn State University is paying me to do and that I love to do.
And that research is you try and understand how thick the glacier is and what's underneath the glacier when I walk around on top of any landmass a glacier or even the rocks of central Pennsylvania, all you see is the surface. What's down below, what's down a mile underneath us?
You don't really know unless you can do the experiments that I do, which are called seismic reflection imaging where we set off a small explosive shot at the surface. And the sound waves from that go down through the glacier, hit the bottom, bounce off it, come back up to the surface.
And then we measure how long did it take, how much energy did it leave going down and coming back-- those sorts of things tell us a lot about the glacier. So that's the work we do. So wake up in the morning and spend the whole day setting off explosive shots, a pyromaniac's dream come true.
But we do it safely. We do it carefully. We don't do it in a wasteful way. And we are doing it to find out more about the glacier.
And then we'll do that all day long until the evening. And then once again we have to make sure we're safe, make sure we're healthy.
The third thing we do is try and keep the excitement of being out there, that energy up through a long, six-week, eight-week, 10-week season. You have to make sure you're having fun. Make sure that everybody's spirits are up. And it's an incredibly important part of the day to come together as a community, even though a very small community-- four of us-- and make sure everybody's OK.