彭蒙惠英语：20110107 MP3在线课程 Antarctica: A Frozen Hotbed of Research
The world's best laboratory
At the South Pole, researchers take core samples of ice, measuring the gases trapped in them to see what Earth's atmosphere was like thousands of years ago. In the Drake Passage,Measurements taken by ship and satellite reveal how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by sea life.
Antarctica is a hotbed of new climate patterns that serve as a nifty laboratory for understanding what's happening to the Earth as a whole. Its long, dark winters make it the best place on Earth for observing the heavens. Its air is the cleanest on the planet, giving researchers a baseline to compare with other regions. Some 70 percent of the world's fresh water is locked into 30 million cubic kilometers of Antarctic ice.
The United States alone spends more than $300 million a year on research here. All the modern work feeds, and is driven by, findings like those of the Nobel-decorated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that carbon dioxide levels are at a high and climbing. Such buildup of gas in the atmosphere the IPCC attributes the steep rise chiefly to industrialization could explain why nine out of every 10 glaciers in the world are shrinking.
Global warming remains a controversial concept, made more so when the hacking of e-mails from researchers at East Anglia's Climate Research Unit last year revealed they toyed with data to make for more dramatic results. Skeptics also like to point out how most of Antarctica has not warmed appreciably.
Scientists in Antarctica, though, say the climate here has changed quickly and profoundly. Shifting atmospherics mean more ice is piling up in the Ross Sea and around the South Pole evidence of an extraordinarily dry place seeing slightly more snow.