Antarctic Science Season Gears Up With Searches for Meteorites, Neutrinos, and New Life Forms

Spring in Antarctica heralds new U.S. science efforts on several fronts: a series of cruises in the Southern Ocean to trace carbon cycling associated with plankton blooms; drilling to assess the stability of the massive ice sheets; and an expedition to search for more meteorites on the continent that yielded ALH84001, the now-famous meteorite from Mars that may contain fossil life.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting approximately 145 Antarctic investigations, based mainly out of three research stations during Antarctica's summer, from now through February.

The bulk of the research -- astronomy and astrophysics, earth science, glaciology, oceanography, atmospheric science, and biology -- is supported out of NSF's McMurdo Station, located on Ross Island, and at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, inland on the heights of the ice cap. Other projects are based at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula and on two research vessels.

Antarctic research highlights this season:

  • Carbon and Climate in the Southern Ocean Scientists led by Robert Anderson of Columbia University and Walker Smith of the University of Tennessee are mounting a major effort to understand the role of the Southern Ocean in the global cycle of carbon, and ultimately to predict the ocean's response to climate change. As the southern component of the decade-long Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), a study of carbon in the world's oceans, thirteen cruises aboard two ships -- the National Science Foundation's icebreaking research vessel, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, and the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System ship Thomas G. Thompson -- will take place from September, 1996 through March, 1998. This field season's cruises will center mainly on the Ross Sea, starting with a cruise embarking in early October to study Antarctica's largest and most predictable spring bloom of phytop

Contact: Lynn Simarski
National Science Foundation

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