SEA Days: World Water Day

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Names:

Sasha Peter Carter

Hometown:

Riverside, California

Schooling Background:

Bachelor of Science, UC Santa Cruz; PhD University of Texas at Austin

Use one word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: 

Imagination

How does polar research affect a person’s everyday life? 

The polar regions do two things:  Store water on land, and reflect solar energy into outer space.  As our planet continues to heat up they become less effective in both these departments.  Locally, this means more water in our ocean, and thus ocean water in places we might now only see it at very high tides.  Regarding the ability of polar regions to reflect heat out into space:  it’s more complicated.  In short, wind as we know it is a mechanism to transfer heat quickly, but also transports a lot of other key pieces of our earth system in the process.  When the ability of one part of the globe to lose heat decreases, the winds start to change.  That means all sorts of components of the earth system are no longer going exactly where we expect.

How did you decide to work on this particular issue? 

To borrow from JRR Tolkien: “I start with a map.”  In fact I start with many maps of the same place each of which displays different, yet interrelated themes.  Then I try to follow the water.  Just 20 years ago, earth science textbooks would say there were no river systems in Antarctica.  Now we have mapped active systems all over the continent.

How do you predict the story of water will change in the future? 

We are in an era where humanity has had the power to shape the earth, but was not fully aware of what scale our decisions affected that around us.  Now as we become more and more aware, the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” comes into play.  We are going to get smarter about how we develop water locally as the assumption of climate stability that justified large regional transfers of water in the late 20th and early 21st centuries becomes less valid.

 

Sasha Peter Carter

Sasha Peter Carter

Sasha Peter Carter

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego