The government shutdown is having ruinous consequences for science in Antarctica. The breadth of the problem and the seriousness for climate and environmental research is only beginning to be understood.
As a consequence [of the shutdown], an entire season of Antarctic research will be lost. Because of the harsh weather, "we have to cram all our science into three months of the year," [Hubert Staudigel, a senior researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography] says. And due to the extremely complicated logistics of working in Antarctica, it will be difficult or impossible to meet the deadlines for this year's research season, no matter how soon the shutdown is resolved.
"This is a much, much bigger science story than anybody realizes," Henry Kaiser says. As a scientific diver in the U.S. Antarctic program, Kaiser has spent ten seasons in Antarctica, and is well connected within the community of Antarctic researchers. ... Long-term experiments are in jeopardy. "There are essential climate studies, essential ocean studies going on down there," Kaiser says. "These are multi-year studies, so if you lose a year, that's it, the study could be over." Scientists spend years planning such experiments, and count on that data for their careers and those of their students. Without that data, says Kaiser, "there's no question we're going to lose people from the field."
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