Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warm(er) Dirt

Just a quick update, since the data link has been a little bit fussy the past few days. 

As I mentioned in my last post, part of my project is to better understand how heat moves in and out of the soils of Taylor Valley. Yesterday, I was taking the dirt's temperature with an infrared thermometer. This instrument reads the temperature of an object by measuring the frequency, or color, of the infrared radiation coming off of it (sort of like a red-hot stove burner, or the blue-hot core of a candle flame). Most of the soil surface is floating around -5*C to -10*C (still very hard frozen). 

As it turns out, few rocks have warmed right up to freezing (0*C), and even gotten warmer (2-3*C). This is because the rocks are low albedo (like in the This Orange Earth post). They absorb a lot of solar radiation, so they warm up rapidly in the sunshine. 

After lugging a 40 pound pack up the valley wall, measuring temperatures as I went, I was able to find a warm (3*C) rock yesterday afternoon that was big enough to lay down on for a quick nap after lunch. There's nothing better than a fifteen minute field nap on a sunny day in Antarctica. 

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