Top of the Morning, April 27, 2014

Top of the Morning, April 27, 2014

About 19,000 years ago, Champaign County didn't look or feel anything like it did Saturday.

Sunny and 70? Far from it.

"This time of year, you probably would be wearing a heavy coat," said Bill Shilts, executive director of the Prairie Research Institute.

Today, we wonder where Champaign's next high school will be built. Back then, they wondered where all the glaciers came from. How cold was it?

"Real cold," Shilts said. "Just like the conditions I experienced in the tundra west of Hudson Bay. There was a massive glacier ice front churning away in Trails of Brittany, building up the moraine those houses sit on. The detention ponds along Rising Road exposed plants and animals just like what we found in the Arctic, and they dated to about 19,000 years ago. But it got warm briefly in the summer, then and now."

In Wednesday's lecture at Beckman Institute — "Nunavut: Canada's Frozen Territory" — Shilts will tell of "one of the most remote ... regions in the world with 32,000 residents in an area larger than Mexico." That would be Nunavut, which was created in '99 and today looks like Champaign did all those years ago. Two words: continuous permafrost.

Here's more from Shilts, who spent 30 years with the Geological Survey of Canada and knows Nunavut like Loren Tate knows the Illini:

Nunavut is ...

Hot, bright, buggy in summer; bitterly cold, dark in winter; empty.

How's tourism there?

Caribou (reindeer) everywhere, and of course, bears and wolves. For people, mostly small coastal hamlets. Pretty limited opportunities, except for cruises.

What does one do for entertainment?

40 years ago? Read and listen to Radio Moscow, Radio Sweden and Armed Forces Radio ... reporting on three different worlds. Swat bugs. Follow moon walks, but not so exciting because we often worked in a moonscape.

Is Nunavut a Cubs or Cardinals region?

When I was there, it was an Indians (Cleveland) region.

In 19,000 more years, what's Champaign going to be like?

Don't know. Probably headed back into a glacial period, but if we work on our atmosphere enough, we may warm things up.

Note: Wednesday's 4 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public. For information, call 217-333-5111.

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