Sunday, 2 January 2011

2011 has begun

Since a couple of days we have strong wind from eastern directions now. Over the ridge the snow is drifting and there are more and more clouds. On Friday 31 December there was even light snow fall. Since Friday the sunphotometer cannot make useful measurements because of the many clouds. The nice image of the sunphotometer with the halo was taken by Stefan Kneifel from the University of Cologne. For the aethalometer on the other hand, the steady winds from eastern directions are very good because in this way it measures the pure Antarctic air – the concentrations of pollution aerosols are around the detection limit – and this is what we are expecting. If we are able to operate this instrument over several years it will be possible to see if there is a change in the concentration level. In the case when the wind becomes weak, the influence of the station is immediately seen. If in addition tractors, generators or skidoos are in operation, the amount of combustion particles the aethalometer detects is then of the same order as in suburban areas in Europe. The TEOM, which you can see built up in the shelter on one of the images, will give information on the mass concentration of all particles, not only the pollution aerosol particles.

New Year’s Eve and New Year itself were quiet days. For New Year’s Eve David, our cook, created again a delicious meal and we were sitting together this evening. The beginning of the new year we welcomed with champagne or wine. It is however difficult to have this feeling that a new day or a new year is starting. With the sun shining whole day round and in particular coming out behind the clouds at midnight – I did not have the impression that this moment was special. This is again an example that it is important to structure the days in Antarctica, otherwise you loose any feeling if it is now day- or night-time.

For the time being we are only 17 left at the station. The other 11 team members are with the meteorite seeking expedition. They went last Thursday with three tractors to the ice plateau, almost 3000m high and about 70 km away. 5 will stay there for three weeks, the others will return today or tomorrow. The weather conditions are harsher than at Utsteinen – with around 1500 m higher temperature will be at least 15 degC colder (but often even more ), wind is stronger, and the height is an additional issue (you have to breathe more, the tractor motors are getting problems…). In the meantime we occupy ourselves besides the normal duties also, e.g., with shoveling snow from the roof of the stations annex buildings, which is blocking some solar panels or creating too much weight for the roof.

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