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Student Journalist Experience in Greenland
on Her
Paid Internship!

By Eve Lamborn

It was early June and I was shivering.

Though I was layered in my winter coat, a stocking cap and gloves, the brisk wind set my teeth chattering. I thought of my friends back home in Kansas, likely barricaded inside comfortable, air-conditioned buildings away from the summer heat and humidity. But my thoughts were interrupted by a sharp crack that echoed across the boulder field where I was perched, followed by a deep boom, and my distant friends were forgotten. The cold wind, after all, was blowing off the Greenland ice sheet, and I was 60 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, sitting in front of a glacier that was calving huge chunks of ice into a stream.

I could see a crack across the face of the glacier and it had slowly been widening for the last half an hour, a tantalizing hint that a big piece of ice was going to break off. Two of my companions, an airplane pilot and a NASA scientist, had scrambled closer to the ice for a better view, and they too had their eyes fixed on the crack. It was going to fall any second. Of course, I had been thinking that for thirty minutes now.

I was in Greenland as part of a science-reporting internship through the University of Kansas. Scientists at KU have developed two types of airborne radar to measure Greenland‚s polar ice sheet. Every summer they travel into the field to operate their radar and gather data, and I had the amazing opportunity to travel with them to Greenland and accompany them on their flights.

They are studying polar ice sheets because sea levels have been rising over the last century. Sixty percent of the world‚s population lives in coastal areas, so rising oceans could have potentially catastrophic long-term consequences. Scientists think melting polar ice sheets are causing some of this rise as a result of climate change, but much information is needed to confirm this theory and predict what will happen in the future, and that's where the KU scientists contribute.

Led by Prasad Gogineni, a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science, scientists at KU‚s Information and Telecommunications Technology Center first came to Greenland in 1993 with a radar that measures the thickness of the ice sheet.

KU graduate Pannirselvam Kanagaratnam developed another type of radar for his doctoral thesis that maps the internal layers in the ice sheet. He completed his doctorate in February.

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