Thursday, November 18, 2010

Antarctic Airborne

We're off by helicopter on a visit to the weather stations scattered around Wright Valley today!

The weather stations maintained by the LTER provide one of the longest records of climate information for the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The first of the stations was installed in 1993, and they have been operating ever since. Each year, scientists from the LTER visit the stations to download the data recorded by the stations, and to make repairs (Antarctica is a harsh continent!). The weather data collected are the same kinds of things you'd expect to hear about on your local weather forecast: air temperature, relative humidity, precipitation (here, only snow), wind speed and direction, etc. The weather stations also record ground temperature, sunshine (how much solar energy is pouring into the ground surface), and "photosynthetically active radiation" (the part of the sun's energy that can be used by plants, like the algae and moss that live here). 

The stations are positioned all around the Dry Valleys, and provide a simultaneous measurement of climate conditions in this fragile ecosystem. The data have been critical for understanding how Antarctica is changing in a warming world

Today, I'll be helping with the station hardware, and then making ground surface temperature measurements near the stations to see how the permafrost at each site is faring. First stop: Lake Vida.

The Lake Vida weather station. 

1 comment: