12 January, 1999
Tuesday, January 12th, 1999, South Pole Station
Hello from the South Pole! Another beautiful summer day in the Antarctica. Today will be an ozonesonde launching day!
After breakfast, I checked my email and answered questions. The rest of the morning, I worked with Bryan in the Balloon Inflation Facility or BIF. Together with meteorologists, this facility is used to inflate balloons that have instruments attached to conduct certain measurement. Our Balloons have ozone sonds attached which measure ozone concentration, temperature, air pressure, and altitude while rising.
Principle of an ozonesonde:
As I have described in my journals from the summer, these sonds are two electro-chemical cells . One is an anode and the other a cathode. Both cells contain potassium iodide solutions. While the balloon rises, a small piston pump pumps air through the solution. The ozone in the pumped air reacts with the iodine solution and produces ions that create a current, which is proportional to the ozone concentration in the air.
The piston pump operates by a buttery. An electronic interface board translates all the data points to the radiosonde. The radiosonde submits the data to a converter. The radio signals are converted into the computer language and the measurements appear as a graph plotted with rising altitude.
Preparations of ozonesondes for the flight:
Each sonds has to be conditioned 3-5 days before the flight by 'flushing' alternatively high ozone (produced with an ozone generator in the lab) and no ozone. The solutions in the cells have to be changed, and the sonde is then stored. On the day of the flight, the solution of the sondes have to be changed again, The dry and whet flow rate has to be determined in order to correct for any changes due to humidity in the air. The background ozone has to be measured as well. Once all the parts are connected, the sonde is placed into a box measuring 20cmX20cm X30cm. It is tested if the sonde can signal the radio receiver connection in the lab, in other words, we find out if our instruments can 'talk to each other'. The whole box is then placed outside in order to condition the sonde to the outside condition. At the same time, we test if the instrument works correctly by comparing its surface measurements with ours, i.e. temperature and air pressure. In the mean time, a balloon is inflated with helium. We added enough helium so that 2000gr 'weigh off weight' can be lifted. The balloon is then tied and a parachute is attached. Then the box with the sonde can be attached and everything can be launched and the data collection can be observed on the monitor. At a certain altitude, the balloon bursts (does any body know at what altitude this might be?) and we can observe the sonds' data collection at its descent. The sonde is usually not retrieved.
What do you think a 'weigh-off-weight' is? Why do you think we have to be careful inflating the balloon with the right amount of helium?
Besides continuing with the routine ozone data collection using a single sonde, the following research will be conducted during my stay here at the South Pole:
Comparative field testing of Ozone data collection at the South Pole, Jan., 1999 and student parcticipation in data analysis in classrooms:
Background information to the field-tests at the South Pole
During recent international workshops scientists compared their methods of collecting ozone data. Since all data is compared
globally, methods used must produce the same data when used under identical conditions. Bryan's experiments suggested that the
buffered 1% Potassium Iodide solution (KI, used in his ozonesondes for many years) calculate slightly higher ozone values than that of the solutions used by other scientists of different countries. His experiments in the lab have shown that the buffer in the solution contributes to the higher ozone values. He concluded that the
solution should not be buffered. Bryan conducted further controlled experiments in the lab and concluded that a 2% KI unbuffered solution measures correct ozone values. Similar tests were also conducted in the lab in Boulder using new and/or different ozonesonde models.
The new solution together with new ozone models needed to be tested in the field. We will conduct this field testing here at the South Pole. We hope to be able to confirm with this work that previous data collected with the 1% IK buffered solution needs to be corrected.
Data collection at the South Pole
A) Comparison of methods. This project is designed to:
1. compare ozone concentrations collected with sondes containing two different concentrations of Potassium Iodide (KI) solutions (1% KI, buffered and 2% KI, unbuffered. This requires launching a double ozonesonde.
a) using latex balloons, which are used during the Antarctic summer
b) using plastic balloons, which are used during the Antarctic winter
2. compare data collection of an older ozonesonde model with that of two new models using the solutions tested in the first experiment.
his requires launching two triple sondes
3. evaluate and possibly correct data collected in the past
B) Compile and compare several seasonal and annual data collected at the South Pole over the past 20 years and determine the difference in ozone concentration.
Today we completed number one! It was a very successful flight!! I will be mailing out the raw data soon for students to plot during class activities. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED PARTICIPATING, PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA MY EMAIL LINK AT THIS SITE.
By the way, who knows what a buffer is? Let me know!
After the launch, Andy and I had lunch and Bryan stand by the radio receiver. He made sure that the radio data signals from the rising ozonesonde would come in strong enough to be read by our receiver. He would make corrections if necessary. Sometimes, changing the direction of the antenna is necessary. When Andy and I were done eating, we went back the BIF to give Bryan a chance to eat. The whole launch lasted about 21/2 -3 hours, including the descending time.
Late afternoon, my Principle Investigator, Dave Hofmann, arrived finally from Christchurch and McMurdo. We gave him a good welcome and talked about our plans for the weeks to come. After dinner, the Dutch and French South Pole racers gave a talk about their experience. What a team!! We are still expecting Peter Hillary. We heard he and his partner should arrive around January 21st. We also heard that they had bad weather, did not make much progress and that they are running out of food. I hope they will be o.k.
About our question from yesterday: What is the Antarctic Treaty? Antarctica is not owned by any nation. The countries that conduct research in the Antarctic found it most essential to protect this continent from any type of exploitation. These countries worked together to come up with the Antarctic Treaty, which was originally signed by 12 countries in 1961: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, USSR, South Africa, USA, United Kingdom. The Treaty includes now 43 countries. Some of these countries do not have any research stations in the Antarctic. The flags of these countries are posted around the Ceremonial Pole.
The Antarctic Treaty summarizes the following:
Antarctica should be used for peaceful purposes only
The freedom of science is guaranteed and the sharing among scientists is promoted.
On-site inspection by foreign observers is allowed to make sure that the Treaty is being followed.
Territorial claims are not recognized, disputed, or established.
Nuclear explosions and the disposal. of nuclear waste
Other Treaties have been signed and I will talk about on Sunday -the 17th of January- inhonor of Scott who arrived here at the South Pole January 17th, 87 years ago.
Keep asking questions. I enjoy answering them and I am
glad that I can share this incredible experience with you. Until tomorrow!
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