BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – University of Colorado scientists worry the government shutdown may freeze their scheduled research in Antarctica.
The National Science Foundation runs three stations on the continent but suspended essential research there because it will run out of money for the stations on Monday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported Thursday.
CU researchers are waiting to deploy to Antarctica for summer there, which runs from October to January. They’re also concerned about maintaining on-site research equipment.
Xinzhao Chu of CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences leads a team that studies the middle and upper atmosphere using a remote sensing technology called lidar.
“We are concerned about the loss of important scientific data and operations and also about our lidar system,” Chu said.
The first wave of scientists who are studying climate change in the polar desert of the McMurdo Dry Valleys is to leave in two weeks but may have to wait, said Diane McKnight of CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. The entire McMurdo research team of 32 people includes seven CU personnel.
“The glacial melt starts in mid-November. We measure stream flow. We sample lakes. A delay in the field season will impact the quality of our record,” McKnight said.
The budget battle also affects National Guard transportation to Antarctica.
“We work with the Air National Guard, and they aren’t available any old time when the shutdown ends,” said Ted Scambos of CU’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Scambos said U.S. partnerships with foreign researchers are in jeopardy. Delays also hurt graduate students who are collecting data for their thesis papers, he said.
Antarctic research, Scambos noted, “really is 24/7, and to have a big chunk sitting out the next few rounds means there’ll be a long recovery period and a lot of delays. There’s quite a bit of money wasted, by scientific standards.”
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