Antarctica Matters to North Carolina

Why does Antarctica matter to North Carolina?

When it comes to a story about scientific research in Antarctica, the question “WHY?” becomes really important. Why should we concern ourselves with what is happening in Antarctica?

After all, Antarctica is at the bottom of the world. It’s forgotten. It’s far, far away from most of the world’s population. It’s dark for almost half of the year. As far as we can tell, there aren’t many natural resources there. And let’s face it, it is really, really cold! So again, why worry about it?

Well for one thing, Antarctica is huge. It comprises almost six million square miles of remote, uninhabited, hostile but also incredibly beautiful and mysterious landscapes. The air is clear and clean, and most of the landscape is an unspoiled refuge, where penguins, seals and birds live. It would be a crime to ruin such a large, unspoiled area of our planet.

But there’s an even more urgent reason to worry about Antarctica. While much of the continent is a mystery, we do know it has a powerful affect on the Earth’s climate and ocean systems. It is at the hub of Earth’s weather system and the churning mass of air above it acts like a giant pump that helps circulate air systems above the earth. The clean ocean waters around the continent also help to circulate nutrients about the globe.

We also know that locked in the continent’s almost four-to-five mile thick ice sheet is a unique record of the planet’s climate over the past million years. That’s an invaluable record of climate change and human impact on the earth.

In fact, Antarctica is already revealing a lot about human activity. Remember the world’s reaction to the 1985 discovery of the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica by scientists with the British Antarctic Survey. The hole was caused by the use of man-made chemicals and the finding was a wake up call to what humans are doing to the earth. Sadly, the hole continues to grow larger and there is now a matching hole above the Arctic. 

It’s true that not many of us will ever visit the Bottom of the World like Dr. Reide Corbett, the subject of my story, Science From the Bottom of the World. But I believe it still must be preserved. Our health may well depend on it.

To read more about why Antarctica matters to all of us, follow Dr. Reide Corbett’s work on his blog.

- Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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