Antarctica Rocks

3 minutes

[explosion]

The areas that I've been concentrating are in the Transantarctic Mountains, which run along through here, just past the South Pole.

(male narrator) Ninety-eight percent of Antarctica is covered with ice. Geologist John Goodge studies the two percent that's not.

(Goodge) We're finding places along this part of the Transantarctic Mountains where these glacial deposits are found. We're sampling those to pick up pieces of rocks that can hopefully give us examples of what's further under the ice sheet.

(narrator) Goodge and his colleagues are supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation. They study rocks from Antarctica to better understand how it has formed and changed over time. Traveling by helicopter, plane, and snowmobile, his team collected samples from a dozen sites, spanning more than 1,200 miles of mountainous terrain. Sometimes their destinations had to change because of harsh weather and aircraft availability.

(Goodge) The first job is to set up shelter.

[wind blowing on microphone]

This is at a site called Mount Achernar, which was reasonably productive.

(narrator) Goodge is back at the University of Minnesota Duluth, processing the samples. That's about 2,500 pounds of rock material.

(narrator) They use a scanning electron microscope to study mineral textures and composition. There's history about the rock and the crust of Antarctica that we can learn.

(narrator) Things like the history of ancient supercontinents. Some glacial deposits we've found seem to confirm the idea that Antarctica and North America would have been neighbors at one time.

(narrator) Antarctica is an important place to study the health of the planet, including the impact of global climate change on ice sheet stability.

(Goodge) By understanding what's happened in the past, we have a framework to suppose what might happen in the future. With respect to climate change, the question is, what extra role do humans play?

(narrator) Science on ice. For John Goodge, this frozen landscape is full of ancient clues waiting to be interpreted. For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.


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Geologist John Goodge looks for clues about Antarctica's past in the two percent of the continent that is not covered in ice. The University of Minnesota, Duluth professor studies rocks that help provide evidence about how this desolate continent has formed and changed over time. In late 2010 and early 2011, he spent several weeks in the field with other scientists, visiting a dozen sites in Antarctica, along 1200 miles of mountains. They collected 2500 pounds of rocks, which are now being analyzed back in the states.

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