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The Breathing Taiga: Researchers Explore Siberia's Role in Climate Change - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

German researchers have constructed a massive tower deep in the Siberian wilderness where, under the watchful eyes of the Russian intelligence service, the scientists are measuring levels of environmental toxins and greenhouse gases. Their goal is to determine if the forests are helping to slow global warming or if they are heating up the planet even further.

From the top of the 300-meter steel tower, the surrounding countryside is a sea of green, stretching to the horizon in every direction. The uniform carpet of treetops is uninterrupted by roads or cities, with not even a single house in sight. The tower itself juts out of this vast carpet of green emptiness like a beacon. The red-and-white painted structure -- 120 tons of steel welded together, piece by piece -- is held in place by long wire cables.

Ernst-Detlef Schulze, 65, is panting by the time he sets foot on the triangular platform at the top. He takes a quick, vertigo-inducing look down at the ground, snaps his safety belt to a metal ring and complains about a pain he has been having in his right knee for the past few days.

But no orthopedist could stop Schulze from climbing up the tower's narrow ladder. The structure is the crowning achievement of his scientific career, and the culmination of 30 years of grueling work in a country where a Western academic like Schulze is viewed primarily as a potential spy.

by Fran on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 at 01:14:43 AM EST
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