Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Being at Utsteinen and Princess Elisabeth again

Since Friday late afternoon I am now back at Utsteinen, at Princess Elisabeth station. It’s nice to be here again. The flight with the Ilyushin went without issues. The weather at Novo Air base was very windy and by times the visibility became worse and we thought that we might even be stuck in Novo. But it cleared up again and two hours after arrival in Novo, Reinhard, Lionel and I took off with the Twin Otter, direction Utsteinen. As the Twin Otter cannot carry as much payload as a Basler, we had to leave most of the cargo at Novo – and therefore we decided also that two of us, Nicolas and Christophe would stay in Novo. Unfortunately, they had to stay until Monday afternoon in Novo because of the overall bad weather there. In the meantime, I had a look to the bunch of instruments I have deployed here. The Brewer (ozone  spectrophotometer) and the sunphotometer are well and are waiting for some calm weather to be installed on the roof again. The wind is too strong at the moment and working on the roof is not really to be recommended. The UV-Vis radiation measurement box on the roof had to be dismounted for a check of the datalogger inside. After this, we mounted it again on the roof and it is operational again. The instruments of the Hydrant project of KULeuven http://ees.kuleuven.be/hydrant/ are also in the pipeline to be started up again. The ceilometer has warmed up inside and routine checks have been done. Yesterday around noon we installed it on the roof and it is operational again now. The precipitation radar and the pyrometer (cloud temperature) still need to be checked. Some pyrometer replacement items arrived just yesterday with the flight from Novo and today Erik and I made the necessary tests inside. The weather station is also well. But beginning of November there was a huge storm which brought around 40 cm of snowfall accumulation within a few days. The weather station instruments are therefore only 215 cm above ground – which is probably not enough for a whole next year-round of measurements. Therefore, we have already foreseen in our cargo a special mast extension set, with which we can lift the meteo instrumentation up again. I also checked the aerosol instruments in the special shelter. The aethalometer, TEOM and the particle counter are operational again. After the 6 months without power and in the cold I had to check if they are safe to be started up again (snow inside, cleaning of parts, replacement of filters, replacement of the cooling fan of the aethalometer, checking the tubings, etc). The laser particle sizer needs a bit more care – the laser window has to be cleaned regularly in order to have enough laser power arriving in the measurement chamber. Yesterday I could bring this laser power already high enough for sufficiently good measurements, but it needs further cleaning. Unfortunately, the nephelometer (light scattering by particles) does not want to start up again. The reason is not clear yet – I will take it inside the station where I can investigate the electronics and other parts more comfortably than in the shelter.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


So, we are still in Cape Town. The Ilyushin flight normally planned passed Tuesday will happen only tomorrow, Friday morning. Take-off at 8am CET. Likewise with the flight of the first team destined for the Belgian station – they stayed 7 days there. For us it will have been 5 days. This delay is due to the bad weather in Antarctica – it’s not too stormy there at the moment, but too cloudy, snowfall and bad visibility. Also at the locations of the individual national research stations the weather is not the best and all the feeder flights with the small propeller aircrafts are also delayed. So, what have we been doing here? In the beginning we have been at Cape Town airport’s cargo storage hall. There we had to re-pack some large boxes into smaller ones. And we checked that all our cargo sent from Europe arrived well. The rest of the time we spend with bit of tourism. Or with work (long-distance telework isn’t it?). Today was a perfect southern summer day and our group of five decided to go up to the Lion’s Head (or Leeukop in Afrikaans), just here opposite of Table Mountain. It’s 669 m asl and from the rocky top the view is really great. You have it all around – the Ocean, Cape Town, its beaches, Table Mountain, the mountain range of the Twelve Apostels, Signal Hill – really to be recommended. From top to bottom of the images: Reinhard pointing to the mountain and Lionel besides of him, then Leeukop itself, me, and all five of us (Christophe second from left, Nicolas to the very right). So, tomorrow morning at 5 CET we will leave the hotel for the airport, landing in Antarctica 14 CET. Most probably we will then fly with a Twin Otter to Utsteinen to the Belgian Princess Elisabeth station the same day. The next post will hopefully be from Utsteinen.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Back to the clean atmosphere

This saturday I will leave again for the Antarctic. Before arriving there, however, I will stay for transit in Cape Town, South Africa, as usual. It will be my fifth time already at the Belgian research station Princess Elisabeth. On saturday, we will be four scientists to leave from Brussels (all working for Belgian projects, but no Belgian, this is so typical for this welcoming country), and one field guide (Swiss) will join us in London. This season I first will have to check all instruments if they are still fine or if there is any damage after the long period of non-operation. Again, I will be responsible also for the meteo-cloud-precipitation instrumentation of the Hydrant project of KU Leuven. And also, as usual, there will be something new - this time it will be a cloud condensation nuclei counter from the Institute of tropospheric research, TROPOS, in Leipzig, Germany. This instrument will measure the concentration of particles being able to form cloud droplets (not every particle is being able to do that). It will give us valuable information to link aerosol properties to cloud and precipitation patterns. Further, the possibility to conduct filter sampling of particles for later chemical analysis will be explored and later in the summer season, first radiosonde balloon launches will be undertaken in collaboration with the Swiss federal institute for 'Wald, Schnee und Landschaft' (www.wsl.ch) and the International Polar Foundation. So, I will try to keep this blog update on a regular basis. The images above shows the typically polluted urban atmosphere of Brussels with rather low visibility and the clean atmosphere in Antarctica with a view up to the Romnoes mountain (to the right on the image), around 60 km away from the station.