A team of Kansas University researchers and students will soon trek to Antarctica to study the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and glean information that can help tell the story of the earth's sea-level change.
The first of two teams leaves Dec. 1, voyaging to McMurdo Station in Antarctica and on to West Antartica where researchers will spend weeks in the frozen summer season.
"There's very much an adventure element to this," said David Braaten, KU associate professor of geography. "It's exciting. You never know what to expect, but it's also hard work."
The teams are from the National Science Foundation's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, set at KU.
The center was established with a $19 million grant in June. The center is finding ways to better understand the mass balance of the world's polar ice sheets and their contributions to global sea-level change.
Researchers over the summer traveled to Greenland, where they worked to perfect a radar system to measure ice sheets.
The teams will visit the remote West Antarctic region, where there will be almost continuous daylight.
They will use radars and sensors developed by the center's staff to get a detailed image of the ice sheet's bed and to map the ice sheet's layers.
The ice sheets have the greatest potential for affecting sea levels, said Prasad Gogineni, who directs the KU ice cap center.
"We don't really know what their contribution is right now," he said.
Gogineni also said the researchers were trying to see what effect global warming has on polar ice sheets.
Traveling with the crews will be two stuffed bears, Berkeley and Ozgold. The bears will participate in the trip in an effort to excite and educate school children about the project.
The bears also went on the summer trip to Greenland. They will have sweaters for this trip.
"The last time they went they said they were a little bit cold," said Jennifer Holvoet, assistant research professor with the School of Education and a member of the research team who is coordinating outreach activities.