14 January, 1999

Thursday, January 14th, 1999, South Pole Station

There was no wake up call for me and I actually slept for 5 whole hours!! We had our first white out: balloon flights would be impossible. I walked around in my full gear to take pictures. It was amazing how fast the snow can drift. It looked like it snows but it seldom does snow here at the South Pole. The air is much too dry.

Before lunch, I answered my emails, transferred photos, and helped in the lab. In the afternoon a reporter from the Washington Post visited our labs at the ARO. Dave talked about the work of his Climate Monitoring and Diagnostic Laboratory. Andy and Joel introduced some of the instruments as well and we continued discussing environmental and political issues.

ARO (Atmospheric Research Laboratory) is located about 1/4 of a mile upwind from the dome near one of the restricted area, the 'CLEAN AIR SECTOR'. Because winds persistently blow towards the South Pole from this direction, the air is virtually untouched by any biota or pollution. This section contains the cleanest air on Earth. It also has the cleanest snow on Earth.

Several research groups work Out of the ARO building:

Biospherical Instruments, Inc. has monitoring devices that evaluate ultraviolet (UV) irradiances using ground-based optical measurements. Since ozone absorbs UV light, the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere can be determined. Similar instruments are at other locations in the Antarctic, in South America, and in the Arctic.

Another group is from the University of Illinois, using laser-based radar to study Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSC). PSC are Antarctic phenomena that, with man-made chemicals that arrive naturally from the world's populated regions, trigger the famous ANTARCTIC STRATOSPHERIC OZONE DEPLETION. I will come back to this topic throughout my stay here at the South Pole.

The people I am working with, and have been trained by in the past summer in Boulder, are members of the Climate Monitoring and Diagnostic Laboratory (CMDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dave Hofmann is the director of CMDL, Bryan Johnson is one of the scientists of the Ozone and Water Vapor research group at CMDL, Joel Michalski works for the NOAA corps group, and Andy Clarke works for the CMDL. Both Joel and Andy do all the monitoring and measurements for NOAA here at the South Pole and transmit all data back to the CMDL lab in Boulder, Colorado. They have been here since October and will also stay throughout the Antarctic winter here at the South Pole. The winter-over season will be completed in October 1999.


NOAA measures pollutants and trace constituents in the atmosphere that influence global climate. These measurements done from the ground and balloons monitor climate changes. Other stations like this one here at the South Pole, Antarctica are on Cape Matatula, American Samoa, at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, and at Point Barrow, Alaska.

You have learned about one of their monitoring work already: collecting OZONE PROFILE data using OZONESONDES attached to balloons. This data collection is done throughout the year here at the South Pole and at the other CMDL stations.

To determine TOTAL OZONE, measurements on the DOBSON are conducted. In the 30ties, Mr. Dobson measured ozone by using a prism that disperses light. He found out that ozone in our atmosphere is important. Mr. Dobson took his instrument, went around the world to make ozone measurements, and found out natural differences in ozone levels. The DOBSON is a spectrophotometer. It contains a prism that splits the light into different wavelength. Two of this wavelength are selected and directed to a photo-multiply -tube which sends out the receiving light as en electrical current. The Dobson compares the two-wave length. One absorbs the UV light, the other does not. Since Ozone absorbs UV light, the difference will give the calculation of the total amount of ozone. I will be doing some of these measurements as well.

Boulder monitors the Dobson World Standard, meaning that all instruments in the world have to be calibrated in Boulder.

Other instruments are the NDIR (Non-Dispersal Infrared Analyses) which measures carbon dioxide based on the principle that this gas absorbs infrared light. The air is taken from the 'Clean Air Facility' field, is cooled to minus 85 Celsius (Water absorbs infrared light as well, so the little there is must be removed by cooling), and send through the analyzer. The South Pole has the longest standing carbon dioxide data collection on Earth (since 1957) and is used world wide for comparison to data collected in populated areas.

Another instrument is the GASCHROMATOGRAPH, which measures ozone-depleting pollutants such as CFC's and Nitrous Oxide.

NOAA also measures Aerosole parcticles at the Clean Air Facility.

The reporter was very pleased with our discussion. Later on, I answered more email and after dinner went to the talk Dave Hofmann gave on 'Greenhouse Gases and Climate Changes - Keeping an Eye on the Atmosphere at the Ends of the Earth'. I enjoyed the overview of so many urgent topics I have heard so much about it. Is the world getting warmer? What does that mean? What can we do?

I just observed the sun again and remembered about yesterday's question: at what angle does the sun circle around the Pole: about 25 degrees. So, when it is not cloudy, one can always see long shadows like during late afternoons in the summer in the states. However, it remains at that angle throughout the day. Of course the angle becomes smaller a little bit each day and the sun circles around the South Pole like a decreasing spiral. Question for tomorrow: when will the sun set?

Got to go and sleep - at least I have to try. Until tomorrow…

White-out at South Pole Station, The picture is taking from my Jamesway. The large wooden structure in the middle of the photo is the Balloon Inflation Facility(BIF). No balloon flights today.

I just stepped out of my Jamesway, the canvas/wooden housing we live in. This is the view of 'Summer Camp' with all the Jamesways in several rows.

Bryan and Joel in front of ARO, the Atmosoheric Reasearch Observatory, also called the 'Clean Air Facility'. It is about 1 kilometer from the station. In the background one can see the resticted 'Clean Air Field'.

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