Explorations: Ice Sheets and Glaciers
The twentieth century began with an international focus on exploring the Arctic and the Antarctic to see what’s in the earth’s most inhospitable regions. Explorers set out to win individual and national glory by being the first to reach the North Pole or the South Pole. In 1901, no one knew whether the North Pole was covered by ocean water or was on a yet-to-be-discovered island—maybe a small continent. No one had ventured more than a few miles inland anywhere on the large continent of Antarctica nor had any idea whether flat terrain or lofty mountains would have to be crossed to reach the South Pole.
As the twenty-first century begins, men and women are living year-round at the South Pole conducting scientific research. As related at the beginning of Chapter 2 of The AMS Weather Book, scientists regularly visit the North Pole—covered by the Arctic Ocean—to conduct research. Tourists who can afford it travel to the North Pole to sky dive onto the ice at the Pole, to ski the last degree of latitude (69 miles) to the Pole, or just to be able to tell others that they’ve been there.
Even so, many scientific questions remain, especially about how global climate change will affect the polar regions and how these changes will affect other parts of the globe. In Chapter 12, The AMS Weather Book looks at some of the important climate research being conducted in both polar regions, and it should help readers understand the continuing news stories about polar research.
The International Polar Year (really two years) is a huge, coordinated program of polar research that ran from March 2007 to March 2009. Results of this research will continue making news for years.
The International Year Web site’s Ice page provides links to research findings, educational materials, and polar-related events. This Web site is a good supplement to The AMS Weather Book for readers who want to explore further.
Information for the Inside Ice Sheets graphic on page 299 of The AMS Weather Book is based primarily on information from the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets, at the University of Kansas. Their Overview page describes the center’s work.
A major source of information for the Warming and Ice Sheets graphic is the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s (NSIDC) Ice Shelves Web page.