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Climate scientists give talk in Escanaba

November 21, 2012
By Jenny Lancour - Staff Writer , Daily Press

ESCANABA - A couple which gathers and analyzes atmospheric data offered first-hand knowledge and opinion on global warming to a local service organization Tuesday.

Former Escanaba resident Matt Okraszewski and his wife, Rebecca Batchelor, of Boulder, Colo., met each other while working in Antarctica. Okraszewski is a polar logistics technician and Batchelor is an atmospheric physicist.

Together, they gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of Escanaba on the places they've worked including Antarctica and the Arctic, relating scientific findings to increasing global warming.

Article Photos

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press
Matt Okraszewski and his wife, Rebecca Batchelor, of Boulder, Colo., at left, talk with Rotarian Maria Maniaci following the couple’s presentation to the Rotary Club of Escanaba on Tuesday. The couple talked about atmospheric data from Antarctica and the Arctic and increasing global warming.

Batchelor described Antarctica as "the coldest, driest, windiest place" on Earth. Despite this, she also said life there can be fun with work and cultural experiences including bands, arts, and sports.

Batchelor also appreciated the international mix of people working there, including technicians and scientists studying biology, geology, volcanology, space physics, and her field of atmospheric chemistry.

She said Antarctica has a clean atmosphere and offers a unique environment that is largely un-impacted by humans. She also described the continent as the closest analogy to life on another planet. Antarctica impacts the weather, ozone and ocean currents world-wide, she added.

The physicist reminded those in attendance that there are no polar bears in Antarctica which actually means "no bear" in Greek compared to Arctic which means "bear." Penguins live in Antarctica, not in the Arctic, she also clarified.

In regards to the Arctic, Batchelor said this region can be described as water and ice surrounded by land. She said the Arctic is warming at a faster rate than other areas; as the ice disappears, the darker seascape attracts the warmth of the sun, speeding up the global warming process.

She said changes in Arctic temperature and sea ice are impacting life in the polar regions and are causing "feedback effects" that impact the atmosphere, ocean and weather over the entire globe - the ramifications of which are being studied.

Okraszewski said, through his work as a data technician, he has collected information for research on polar atmospheres including the sun's radiation, particles in the air, energy, clouds, precipitation and permafrost.

He has been studying and watching the trends of global warming, also known as climate change, to help understand how this will play out for different regions of the world.

"This has become an economic, social and political debate," Okraszewski said.

Batchelor agreed, saying the issue is more of a political debate in the United States compared to other places where the debate is about how to address the problem.

Through a time-lapsed video of temperatures over time, global warming increased on Earth with the coming of the Industrial Era, she said.

Individuals can prevent further climate change by practicing energy-saving measures on a day-to-day basis, such as drying clothes outside and making less trips with vehicles, she added.

As a nation, there needs to be a bigger push for technological advances that use less energy or use more renewable resources, she said.

Okraszewski predicts the biggest push to drive discussion on global warming will be the weather and climate events such as droughts.

After the meeting, Okraszewski commented the timeline is getting shorter for more drastic affects to occur because of climate change. Global warming will further affect ocean currents, sea levels, weather, and the Earth's ecology, he said, forcing humans to survive and adapt to a new reality.

Okraszewski said the "main driving force" behind the climate change is the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. New strides can be made in the fight against global warming through technical advances and individual lifestyle adjustments, he said.

He recommends increased use of renewable energies, personal decisions to be more energy efficient, and a reduction in energy consumption. An example is driving a fuel-efficient vehicle, he said.

During their visit to the area, Okraszewski and Batchelor made presentations for students from Escanaba, Gladstone, Big Bay, Iron Mountain and Kingsford. The couple also spoke at Bay College on Tuesday evening.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,



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