Friday, 20 November 2015

Team about to leave Belgium for Antarctica

This Saturday, Quentin Laffineur  (RMI) and Christian Hermans (Institute for Space Aeronomy) will start their journey from Belgium to Princess Elisabeth station Antarctica. As mentioned before, they will take care of all measurements and instrumentation for the AEROCLOUDproject. The scientific activities will take place in the framework of this year’s scientifc  Belgian Antarctic expedition  (BELARE 2015-2016), which is organised by the Polar Secretariat and the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO). The expedition is supported by the Belgian Secretary of State for the federal science policy, Ms Elke Sleurs, and is also supported by the Ministry of Defense (logistic support and personnel).
After arrival, Quentin and Christian will check several instruments for detecting clouds and precipitation, and properties of ambient aerosol particles. For the first time, all these instruments have been operational whole year-round. This means, also during the time when the station is uninhabited and the instruments rely on remote control. They will also re-install several instruments which cannot operate for several reasons during Antarctic winter (Cimel sunphotometer, Brewer ozone spectrophotometer), or which have been in Belgium for repair. In addition, there are again some newcomer-instruments.  In total, Quentin and Christian will have to deal with 13 instruments, plus the automatic weather station and weather balloon launches, and this within just tight 4 weeks. I wish them all the best and good luck for their work.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Instruments still operational and station is about to be opened again for the summer

The first Belare (Belgian Antarctic Research Expedition) team for this austral summer is about to arrive at Princess Elisabeth station. Their flight from Cape Town to Antarctica is scheduled for tomorrow. After arrival at the station they will be busy to prepare the station for austral summer operation. This means to clear the accumulated snow, check the IT- and power generation system, setting up again the water procurement system, and everything else what is needed for daily life at the station. Further teams will arrive one week and two weeks later. With that third team, also a first group of scientists will arrive. From our institute, it will be Quentin Laffineur who will join the Belare team. It will be his second stay in Antarctica. Last season he has been there together with me. This time, our colleage Christian Hermans from the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy will also join. It will be his first time in Antarctica. Quentin and Christian will take care of all instrumentation for atmospheric composition and cloud, precipitation detection, the automatic weather station, and they will also be responsible for regular launches of weather balloons. In addition, there will be some new instruments to be installed. Quite a lot of work. I will describe these instruments later in more detail and, as usual, we will also tell how life is about at Princess Elisabeth station.

monthly values of the particle number concentration (in cm3) from Nov-2014 ('1') to Oct-2015 ('12')

Another very important point is that our instruments are still in operation,without any break. We are very near to a complete year of data, two weeks missing yet. This is a great succes - having these kind of instruments in operation, only by remote control, without human direct maintenance, in these harsh environmental conditions and mainly sustained by renewable energies, is quite unique. This also means that we have already a very nice data set for our main scientific project AEROCLOUD at the station. The graphic above shows the monthly means of total particle concentration (in number per cm3) for November 2014 ('1') to October 2015 ('12'). The blue bars are the medians and blue and red together give the average value. Also the error bars are given. As already told in my last post, a nice seasonal cycle can be seen, also the influence of some events during which the number concentration increased distinctly (what causes that the median and average values differ markedly). The increase from August to October is very steep and the concentration for October is relatively high, especially when comparing with the concentrations during the summer months December to March. There have been several events during which the concentrations increased to some thousands of particles per cm3. There is a lot of promising information to be exploited scientifically. So, as the season is about to start, I will try to update this blog regularly.