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Arctic research team braves subzero temperatures for WSLS 10

WSLS 10 in Roanoke took the opportunity to Skype with an 18-person Arctic research team from Radford University and aired a feature on their work on March 7.

The team, currently based in Barrow, Alaska, is attempting to use measurements of ice thickness and surface temperature to find out just how much ice is left in the Arctic. They are staging their research just a few hundred yards from the ocean ice sheet. Temperatures can drop as low as 40 degrees below zero.

“Your fingers and your toes get very cold,” said Cameron Baumgardner, a junior geology major from Mechanicsville, Va. “We’re going through a lot of hand warmers and such. You get little ice crystals forming on your eyelashes and eyebrows.”

The WSLS feature included shots of the ice-covered Barrow, home to more than 4000 people year round. The local population welcomes research crews like those from Radford.

“I haven’t met a single person who wasn’t friendly,” said Nicholas Aitcheson, a senior geology major from Purcellville, Va.

The team, led by Physics Professor Rhett Herman, is continuing an eleven-year project to find a correlation between polar sea ice surface temperature and ice depth. If successful, the team will then be closer to answering a key question about the ice cap covering the North Pole: "How big, in terms of volume, is it?"

The team will continue their work in Alaska through March 15. A shift change takes place midway through the trip, bringing a fresh group of student researchers north.

 For more information about the Arctic team's mission, visit their website.

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Mar 9, 2014