News / Science & Technology

US Government Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations

Samantha Hansen and her team set up 15 seismic sensors in Antarctic’s Transantarctic Mountains to gather data on earthquakes. (Credit: Samantha Hansen)
Samantha Hansen and her team set up 15 seismic sensors in Antarctic’s Transantarctic Mountains to gather data on earthquakes. (Credit: Samantha Hansen)
Rosanne Skirble
The U.S. government shutdown has reached the end of the Earth.

The National Science Foundation, which receives its budget from the federal government, announced that it will shut down its three stations in Antarctica.

This means research that would have been done during the summer season that began October 1 is now on hold. The loss could be both scientific and financial.

Cash flow

The National Science Foundation has run out of money. It cannot go forward without its proposed $465 million budget. In a statement on its website, the NSF announced, “all field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended.”
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)
x
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)


That is bad news for Samantha Hansen, assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Alabama. Last year, her team deployed 15 seismic stations in an Antarctic mountain range to study earthquakes. She had planned to return this season to collect the data.   

“If we can’t get down there and if any of the stations are not operating as they should right now, if they have any problem, we’re not going to be able to fix them, because we can’t get there," Hansen said. "And if we can’t fix them, they are not going to run correctly into the upcoming year and we can potentially lose all of that officiated data.”  

Lost data and equipment

Hansen runs the risk of losing both the data and the costly equipment. Located in areas of high snowfall, the sensors would be completely buried and inaccessible by the time next season arrives.  

LISTEN: Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations
US Government Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

“And obviously for the project, it would be a huge loss because we would basically have nothing to work on," she said. "So it’s kind of critical for us, both in terms of the data and taking care of the equipment and being able to work on our research projects of getting back there.”

Researchers in a wide variety of disciplines face that dilemma. Joanne Carney, who follows science policy as director of the Office of Government Relations for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says legislators' failure to reach an agreement has put an entire research season in limbo for hundreds of projects that can only be done in Antarctica's pristine environment.
    
“This impacts a whole host of disciplines from biological studies of animals like penguins, astronomical research as well as long-term research on climate change and weather,” Carney said.   

Starting from scratch

For these scientists, the shutdown is more than simply a temporary work stoppage.
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
x
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
​“There are many areas of science that involve continuous monitoring and interpretation of scientific data, for example in climate change and weather, and so while policy makers in [Washington] DC may view the budget impasse as a hiatus, that doesn’t translate the same for science," she said. "For science it means throw away your research and start from scratch.”  

That's why scientists like Hansen are anxiously waiting for Congress to act. In its statement, however, the National Science Foundation cautioned, “Some activities cannot be restarted once seasonally dependent windows for research and operations have passed, the seasonal workforce is released, science activities are curtailed and operations are reduced.”

Even so, Hansen remains somewhat optimistic.

“I think that there is a lot of hope that once the shutdown is resolved and budgetary issues get taken care of, they will salvage at least part of the field season and maybe we’ll still get to do what we want to do,” she said.

But the clock is ticking. The short Antarctic research season runs from October through February.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid