In Antarctica, former Omahan will look to past to help understand our changing climate

Geology Professor Neil Tabor travels to Antarctica to better understand what is happening to our climate.

Former Omahan Neil Tabor has embarked upon a journey to the geographic end of the world to study a past end of the world (of sorts) in hopes of preventing a future end of the world.

The Central High and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate — now a Dallas-based geologist and professor at Southern Methodist University — is bound for Antarctica on a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

He’ll be stationed for about 2½ months in a tent camp on the frozen continent’s east side studying rocks so old they predate the dinosaurs and even the existence of the planet’s formation of the seven continents as we know them.

His job in Antarctica won’t be measuring glacier shrinkage or other modern-day signs of how Earth’s climate is changing before our eyes. His purpose, instead, will be to peer into the distant, distant past to help our understanding of what to do as our planet jolts through the effects of rapid environmental change.

“It’s an analog for the current conditions,” he said. “It can help us try to brace ourselves and try to understand how ecosystems and organisms living in them respond.”

A mass extinction, called the “Great Dying,” wiped out nearly all marine and most animal life 250 million years ago, and major climate change was a factor. One difference between then and now, Tabor said, is that the climate change he’s studying happened over a long period of time at a much slower pace than the change being recorded now. The scientists will also seek the answer to this question: How did life rebound?


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