Kansas University researchers will lead an international study to find out why sea levels are on the rise.
KU's Information and Telecommunications Technology Center said Friday it received an $8.7 million grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. Ten other universities and agencies from six countries also will participate in the program.
"There's definite changes in our climate, and we don't know what effect that will have on the ice sheets and the sea levels," said Prasad Gogineni, the KU professor of electrical engineering and computer science who wrote the grant.
The project will develop and deploy mobile radar sensors in the polar regions to collect data about thickness of ice sheets, the oceans and atmosphere. Sea levels have risen about 15 centimeters during the past 100 years.
The rising seas could threaten people living in coastal regions.
"Sixty percent of people live in coastal areas," Gogineni said.
The project will take five years to complete. Two or three years will be spent developing the sensors, mostly at KU. Seven KU researchers are participating.
The rest of the time will be spent testing the sensors in various areas. Most of the data collection that follows will be organized by other agencies.
KU's proposal was selected because it included robots and sensors that will decrease the need to have scientists in the polar regions. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will be a major focus of the project.
The ITTC's Radar Systems and Remote Sensing Laboratory has been involved with polar ice research since the late 1980s.
Other organizations participating in the study are the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ohio State University, the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the University of Chicago, the University of Copenhagen, the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, the University of Bristol, the Australian Antarctic Division and the Phoang Institute of Technology in Korea.
The National Science Foundation awarded eight grants over $5 million this year, from more than 2,000 competitive proposals. The KU proposal was the only large grant in Kansas.
"We're proud of it," Gogineni said, "and we believe it will push KU into the elite for research grants."