Monday, 1 December 2014

Instruments back to operation and Antarctic Day

On December 1st, the Antarctic Day is celebrated. On 1 December 1959, the international Antarctic Treaty was signed by 12 nations (inlcuding Belgium). The treaty set aside the vast Antarctic continent exclusively for peaceful purposes, serving the interests of all mankind. The Antarctic Treaty became the first institution to govern all human activities in an international space, i.e., a region beyond sovereign, national jurisdiction. Each year the parties to the Antarctic Treaty gather together to discuss any issues, e.g., related to Antarctic tourism, environmental protection or best-practices in operating research stations. Today, around 30 countries are full members to the Antarctic Treaty. Celebrating Antarctic Day each year was initiated on the occasion of 50 years of the treaty in 2009. For example, school classes have been working before on the thematic of Antarctica and then sent their drawings with researchers or staff to Antarctica. These drawings are then mounted, displayed, or similar (depending on weather and wind conditions) at several research stations. There are also many chats via skype of school classes with researchers or staff people, bringing daily life of Antarctica nearer to the public. Also at Princess Elisabeth station several skype sessions were organized, including one with me with a primary class in the UK. It was both fun for them and me.

On instrument side we have not been lazy in the meantime. Quentin and I set up nearly all instruments. 6 instruments in our little container for measuring characteristics of atmospheric particles, 5 instruments on the station’s roof, which will measure total ozone, UV radiation, attenuation of light by particles, cloud and precipitation characteristics. More information on these instruments can be found here. One instrument in the container is not starting up anymore. The reason is not absolutely clear at the moment, but it does not look good. We also have some trouble with our loved sunphotometer robot on the roof. It should track the sun for its measurements. Although we tried hard to mount and orient it correctly, it prefers to point either in the morning or in the afternoon some azimuth degrees aside of the sun. As it has been very windy yesterday and today (up to 12 m/s), we have not been able to do more trials. So, the sunphotometer is waiting for the next fair weather day for further servicing. Setting up the ozone spectrophotometer allows us to follow the evolution of the total amount of ozone over the whole atmospheric column. Actually, a remainder of the yearly ozone hole is partly moving above our region of Antarctica. Therefore, total ozone is reduced and ultraviolet radiation from the sun is increased. This UV radiation can cause skin cancer and therefore it is important to protect yourself, even if we have only small parts of our skin exposed freely. I put a graph of the UV index on 26 November. It reached very high values around 9 that day, meaning that unprotected skin will be burned in around 15 minutes. 

Quentin and I installed also a new system for the launch of radio sondes. These sondes will measure temperature, humidity, wind and wind direction and pressure up to around 22 km. These data will give more information on the dynamics of the atmosphere above us, on transport processes, and will also serve forecasters and modellers of the weather in East Antarctica. Our goal is to launch each day one balloon. The image shows Quentin just launching a balloon yesterday at very windy conditions.


  1. Hi Alex, hope all goes fine with you over there! You missed our annual buiscits making event:-) but we try to keep some for you until you are back.many greetings from us, Judit, Viktor and the 4 children

    1. Hi Judit, yes everything's fine here. I hope, Daniel is doing better. Biscuits - Juliane and Felix said they'll keep some (one or two) for me ;-) cheers to you all, Alex