We arrived in Argentina after a night in the air—maybe the first time I’ve ever gotten a (nearly) decent night’s sleep on a plane. We took a taxi across the city. It’s hot and flat, and our taxi driver explains that they’ve had torrential rains for several weeks; all the lowlands alongside the highway are filled with shimmery, temporary swamps. “We usually have picnics there,” he says, pointing to a shallow pond thick with grass poking up through the surface. “But this summer has been strange and wet.”
I am on my way to Patagonia with Michael Kaplan, a researcher at Lamont who is part of my master’s committee. We’re here to study how climate in South America was in the past. One reason I’m interested in paleoclimate research is because I’d like to understand our modern climate system better, and what the future might look like. “Climate,” by definition, operates on a time scale longer than seasons or even years, so this wet summer is just another point in some larger dataset, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
We get to the small intra-national airport and drop off our bags with time enough to wander down the riverside walkway outside the airport. It’s sweltering and steamy, but Mike tells me that when we get to Rio Gallegos, just north of Tierra del Fuego, I’ll be glad I brought warm clothes.
Tomorrow I’ll explain our exact plan. For now, I’m going to make sure that I get a window seat so I can look at the topography beneath us as we fly nearly directly south. To Patagonia we go!