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CWU included in large global warming research project – NBC Right Now

ELLENSBURG – Seven institutions in the country will participate in a global warming research project spanning multiple countries; and one of the chosen institutions is our own Central Washington University (CWU). The research project received some of its funding from the National Science Foundation through a nearly $3 million grant.

Through the project, the Sensitivity of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet 2C (SWAIS 2C), researchers will retrieve sediment cores from the floor of the ocean. Then they analyze the sediment cores for geological signs of an ice sheet retreat in world history. The goal is to examine ice sheet sensitivity to a 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit global temperature increase.

In about a year, engineers are set to drill through the Antarctic ice sheet. Sediment samples will be collected from a half-mile below sea level. The analyses are hoped to shed light on what may happen if global warming increases the 3.6 degrees F (or 2 degrees Celsius), as is currently projected.

Geophysicist Paul Winberry conducts research at CWU and has been involved with SWAIS 2C since the summer of 2019. Winberry has extensive knowledge on Antarctic sediment samples and has conducted a plethora of research over his career. But rather than drilling, Winberry’s contribution is helping decide where to drill.

The data and research he provides gives context to the rest of the program members about how to move forward. It also gives glaciological context to scientists.

“This is very important work because it will show us if the ice sheet disappeared when temperatures increased by 2 degrees Celsius, or if it didn’t,” said Winberry. “That will give us confidence about what would happen if the world warmed up again by a couple of degrees.”

SWAIS 2C has an amassed funding of around $4.6 million from several countries, with the $2.9 million grant total from the National Science Foundation. The U.S. institutions participating in the project are: CWU, Columbia University, Rice University, Colgate University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northern Illinois University and Binghamton University.

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