Hinsdale Central grad drills for ice in Antarctica
Emily Longano wearing a parka with 5 pounds of down inside, issued by the U.S. Antarctic program. "They are ridiculously warm," Longano says. "This picture was right after I had been digging snow pits for six hours, so I was quite warm already."
Cold, hard facts
Name: Emily Longano
College degree: Double major in geology and biogeochemistry
Other places she has done ice/climate research: Alaska and Denmark
Future plans: Looking into Ph.D. programs within the field of glaciology to pursue a career in ice and climate research
Website for more information on West Antarctic ice core project: http://waisdivide.unh.edu/science/index.shtml
West Antartic Ice Sheet project funded by: National Science Foundation
Updated: April 29, 2013 10:01AM
HINSDALE — Emily Longano, a 2008 Hinsdale Central graduate, spent November to February in Antarctica. Longano, 22, graduated from the University of Colorado. in May. While in college, she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research laboratory in Boulder, Colo., analyzing samples from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core. In the summers, she worked at the National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver, Colo.
Q. How did the opportunity arise to work in Antarctica?
A. While I was working at NICL, I met the chief scientists on the ice core project. I received an email they were looking for people to go down to Antarctica. I applied and was accepted. They chose 3 people out of about 100 applicants.
Q. What did the job consist of?
A. After the ice core was drilled, I would conduct initial quality and length measurements, create a database and note any special features, such as volcanic ash layers. We would carefully package the samples in special tubes, load the tubes into insulated boxes, and prepare the boxes or shipment by the U.S Air Force.
Q. So how cold was it?
A. I had worked at the lab in Denver, we were working in a 25 degree below zero freezer for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 months. That prepared me very well for Antarctica. But when I first started doing this work, I would get much colder and have to put on several more layers.
Since it was summer in Antarctica, the sun was always up. The average temperature was about 20 degrees below zero. Some days it would be so cold, you could throw a boiling cup of water in the air, and it would freeze before it hit the ground. Some of us tried blowing children’s bubbles outside. They froze instantly and created frozen, hollow soap spheres.
However, you are issued so much warm gear that it is very easy to bundle up and stay warm. On days when there was minimal wind, the temperature could get up to 5 to 10 degrees, but if felt much warmer with the sun.
Q. What was the most beautiful scene you saw?
A. We took a two-day snowmobile trip 35 miles away from camp to drill some ice cores by hand. Besides our two tents and snowmobiles, there was absolutely nothing but ice as far as the eye could see in every direction. I walked a few hundred meters away from where we were camped, and knew I was standing somewhere where no other human being had ever stood before.
Q. Why is the composition of the ice core important?
A. It is used to construct paleo-climate records, including past temperature and past atmospheric compositions. This ice core is particularly unique because of the high level detail in the annual layer chronology. It will help construct the most detailed record of greenhouse gases possible over the last 68,000 years. When compared to a drilled ice core in Greenland, the West Antarctica Divide record will help determine if climate variations were initiated by changes in the northern or southern hemisphere.