Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Halley's 'Nott a Hill in sight' Carnival

Last night the infamous Halley Samba band 'drumline' joined in with the festivities going on at the other side of the world in Notting Hill Carnival.

Blimp Bliss

A fabulous sky on the morn of the first blimp flight of the season. Volunteers to help were a plenty as everyone wanted to get out and gaze at the dream like scene. The photo underneath shows me being distracted by the gorgeous pink wisps of cirrostratus (met speak for high ice cloud) and the patches of ice fog that made buildings in the distance look like they were floating on air. It was also the only time I have seen patchy fog in front of the windows so that the light streaks out from them like rays shining down through the clouds from the heavens.

Thanks Dave for being both diligent and skillful as always when it comes to working the Lens.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rocky Halley Picture Show

Here is the evidence that we've been away from society for too long. mY only excuse being that when you haven't been more than a mile away from your bed for 6 months, you have to do something to liven things up.

Lets do the Time Warp again...

Antarctic Pub Crawl

Welcome to my world: It's Saturday night and you're dressed up ready for a night out on the town. Where shall we go, you wonder briefly, then you remember there is only one pub at Halley, the same pub you've been to every Saturday for the last nine months.

Not anymore...

Last weekend and in honour of Ant's 30th birthday we took a tour of the finest venues the Brunt Ice Shelf has to offer.

  1. Satellite Dome,
  2. Melt tank shaft,
  3. CASLab (atmospheric chemistry lab turned music venue),
  4. Simpson platform (meterology and ozone lab turned Biker bar),
  5. Weather haven tent (turned techno disco)
  6. Piggott platform (upper atmospheric science lab turned chillout lounge)
  7. The grand finale: a secret ice cave.

I discovered the perils of filming in the Antarctic as I tried to remove this frozen camera from my face. No lasting scars, I'll have to try harder next time.

The Piggott chill out lounge

Birthday boy welcomes the guests to the secret ice cavern

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spring skies, spring science

At the moment the sun rises at about the time of the daily weather balloon launch (11am). Shame it won't last long; the sunrise gets earlier by twenty minutes every day at the moment!

Here we are putting up a giant tent that will be used to inflate and store a 'blimp' (helium airship). Part of spring science campaign here at Halley involves flying the Blimp with ozone and meteorological sensors attached through the lower atmosphere to find out all about mysterious spring time 'ozone depletion events' that could have important consequences for climate change, at least at a regional scale. Here's a quick guide:

What is an Ozone Depletion Event?

A short-term reduction in the amount of ozone gas in the air near the ground.

Why are Ozone Depletion events important?

Ozone gas absorbs the sun’s radiation so surface level ozone has an influence on how much heat is reflected back out to space and how much is trapped causing warming. We are fairly sure that ozone depletion events have an impact on regional climate but as the extent of the events is not yet known, the wider impacts are not fully understood (the blimp work should help with this).

The changing climate in the polar regions will likely have an effect on how often these events occur, which in turn will affect the climate . Climate change science is full of feedbacks like this one, which is one of the main reasons it's so complex and hard to predict.

How does the ozone depletion take place?

There is very strong evidence that the ozone depletion occurs when the air comes into contact with newly forming sea ice. Satellites measurements have been used to trace the trajectories of ozone depleted air and confirm that it has passed over new sea-ice zones. Chemical reactions take place between the ozone in the air and naturally occuring molecules on the surface of the new sea ice that destroy the ozone. Sea ice formation takes place throughout winter and spring, however ozone depletion events occur predominantly in spring, as sunlight is an essential ingredient of the ozone destroying reactions.

What does the Blimp do?

We attach an ozone sensor and a set of meteorological sensors (wind, temperature, pressure and humidity) underneath the blimp and slowly raise it up to around 400m. This provides a profile of the conditions and ozone concentrations throughout the near surface air, which can help determine how far up the ozone depleted air stretches and how the level of ozone varies with height and meteorological conditions. The more we find out about what is going on within the ODE, the more we will understand about its origins and likely impacts.

The afternoon we put up the blimp tent it was freezing (-42 or so, see mine and Alex's faces below to prove it) but gorgeous with glowing skies and patches of lingering mist.

Moonrise over the weather platform, named the Simpson platform after the meteorologist on Captain Scott's South Pole expedition.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ready for Action

'Action Heros' was the theme for Kirsty's 23rd bithday party. A whole 3 weeks since the last fancy dress, people were well up for it and I think the theme kind of fitted with the mood on base at the moment. There's loads of science going on (more on that coming) and seemingly thousands of outdoor jobs built up during the darkness. The light means everyone's up for the challenge; every day of decent weather we get we have to be ready for action...

Lara 'birthday girl' Croft

Jules broke his ankle out kite skiing a couple of weeks ago, so Richard and Dean got plastered up to keep him company. Richard came as a stunt man, Dean as a slightly clumsy James Bond whilst Jules was, in his own words, "the ugly one from the good, the bad and the ugly."

Me as a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. The gloves and skidoo helmet made eating dinner interesting. Later in the night I morphed into a giant robot Rhino but sadly, no photos.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Here comes the sun...

Sune sees the light

The flag nearly blows away, as youngest base member Jimbo tries to put it up upside down!

I thought the sun was supposed to be hot??! The first day of spring and it was -43 degrees C.

This was the day before sun up. My eyes were pinned to the horizon desperate to catch that very first glimpse. Despite the sun itself being a no show, the overall spectacle wasn't so bad. The big rod you can see is part of the air sampling equipment we use every week to collect flasks of air that tell the world how levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are changing. On days like this I feel especially privileged to be down here doing global science and enjoying all the perks that come with it.

Beach volleyball in the...er...sun?

Lastly, just a few pretty pictures of Kirsty and I just after we came in from measuring the snow snakes that record snow accumulation and raising some cables that had been buried after the recent blizzards. For more about the major Halley activity of stopping everything disappearing beneath white powdery stuff, see Dean's blog.

What you looking at?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Science Never Sleeps

It's Sunday morning. I'm duty weather girl.

The majority of base members might be enjoying a lie in, but science never sleeps.

There are three of us in the Halley met team and we take turns to work the weekend shifts.

As I make my way to work at nine, there's already a glow over the misty horizon.

There's just one week to go until sun up.

After entering my 9am weather observation into the computer which sends it straight to the UK met office, I take my place in the Halley met office.

It looks so similar to any old office back home, if I wasn't going outside every hour I could easily forget I was 12000 miles away.

The friendly office penguin sits over my desk, alongside photos of green, sunny, hilly places to help me remember that it's not flat and white everywhere.

At about half ten get dressed up again and make for BART, a shipping container on stilts, to fill the daily weather balloon with helium gas ready for launch.

When it's full, the balloon's about the same size as me (height not width, even Ant's amazing food hasn't done me that much damage, not yet at least!). I tie a radiosonde onto the neck of the balloon before releasing it. That's a little plastic box carrying temperature, pressure and humidity sensors and a GPS antenna (you can work out wind speed and direction if you know how the positions changes with height), which hangs on a long string beneath the balloon and transmits data back our receivers every second.

The balloon can travel up to 25km and expand to the size of a double decker bus before bursting!

On my way back to the office after lunch the light was as bright as a bedside lamp with a hangover. The morning mist had cleared and the daylight totally caught me by surprise. The past few weeks went something like this: it was dark all the time, then a few days of blizzard, then suddenly the skies cleared and we got days back again! I mean, I still had to use night mode on my camera to take this photo, the light only lasts a couple of hours and it's probably still dark enough to turn street lights on back home, but after three months it comes as a welcome change, that's for sure.