City State student heads way
south for winter
By CHRIS DAY
Some people might say think
it gets a bit cold in Elizabeth
City, but one Elizabeth City
State University student is about
to experience firsthand a land
where cold takes on a whole new
Jerome Mitchell, 20, a computer
science major, is flying to McMurdo
Station, Antarctica, Sunday,
to begin six weeks of research
in a project sponsored by the
National Science Foundation.
McMurdo Station is the largest
Antarctic research station.
According to the NSF, the average
temperature at McMurdo in January
is a balmy -3 degrees Celsius,
or 27 degrees Fahrenheit. However,
the temperature drops to a bone-chilling
-28 C, or -18 F by August, which
is mid-winter in the Southern
Mitchell, a junior from Chesapeake,
Va., said he is going to Antarctica
to research global warming.
Global warming theorizes that
the Earth is gradually becoming
warmer because certain gases,
known as greenhouse gases, are
trapping the sun's heat within
Earth's atmosphere and causing
what is known as a greenhouse
According to Mitchell, scientists
have determined that the Earth's
average temperature has risen
1 degree Fahrenheit in the last
century. This increase has been
attributed to global warming.
Some scientists speculate that
global warming could lead to
a dangerous increase in sea levels
if the polar ice caps begin to
melt. If so, an increase in sea
levels in the Atlantic Ocean
could threaten the North Carolina
coast, Mitchell said.
In Antarctica, Mitchell will
use a robot to test density levels
of the ice to determine if indeed
it is melting.
"I will be doing field-testing
with a robotic rover that will
actually measure the characteristics
of ice sheets," he said.
Mitchell explained that the
robot he'll be working with is
self-guided. While the robot
is in the field collecting data,
Mitchell will be miles away in
a laboratory analyzing the data
transmitted by the robot.
The robot uses ground-penetrating
radar to measure changes in the
thickness of ice and transmits
the information to a computer
via satellite, Mitchell said.
Changes in the thickness of ice
in some locations could indicate
that it is melting, he said.
The robot probes the ice in
two modes, either biostatic,
which is a zigzag pattern, or
monostatic, in a straight line,
The two patterns are used "so
you can effectively measure the
ice processes," he said.
Although Mitchell said he's
excited about the opportunity
to travel to Antarctica, he will
be missing out on some important
"I'm very excited (and) I can
hardly contain myself," he said. "I'll
be there six weeks, even for
Christmas, New Years and my 21st
Mitchell said he hopes his
research trip will lead to similar
opportunities for other ECSU
He's traveling to Antarctica
with students from the University
of Kansas, where he spent the
last two summers conducting polar-ice
ECSU, the University of Kansas,
and other institutions received
a $26 million grant last year
from the National Science Foundation
to conduct a joint study of changes
in global climate. ECSU's share
of the grant was $2 million.
Mitchell said his trek to Antarctica
starts Sunday at Norfolk (Va.)
International Airport where he'll
fly to Los Angeles, and on to
New Zealand. A U.S. military
transport plane will fly him
to McMurdo Station, he said.