Researchers from the University of Washington and Columbia University are getting ready for an unprecedented months-long campaign to study Antarctica’s ice shelves from the ocean below, with backing from billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen.
The results are expected to lead to a better understanding of how ice retreats, and how climate change could affect the loss of polar ice sheets and the resulting rise in sea levels.
It’s a high-risk mission — but in this case, robots, not humans, are taking the risk.
“All of these instruments could be lost underneath the ice shelf,” said Spencer Reeder, director of climate and energy for Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.
Reeder said that’s a big reason why Allen, one of Microsoft’s co-founders, is funding the expedition to the tune of just under $2 million. The risks are too high for the traditional funders of polar research, but Allen’s backing could help UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory prove that its devices can do the job.