Sunday, December 16, 2007





December 16, 2007
McMurdo Antarctica

Time: 10 pm
Latitude: 77° 49.98’ S
Longitude: 166° 49.10’ E
Temperature: 3 °C ( 38 °F)
Wind speed: 6 km/h (4mp/h)
Wind Chill: 0 °C ( 32 °F)
Clouds: clear
Wind direction: W
Relative Humidity: 17%
Barometric Pressure: falling
Precipitation: 0

I still have not gotten an opportunity to set up my 3d quadrat to collect observations/weather data. All of the data I have posted on the blog so far has come from Weather Underground .com, weather stations along my travels, or the McMurdo weather station. When I get to WAIS camp, installing my 3d quadrat is one of the first things I will do. I am going to take a little time here to explain the 3d quadrat concept since I know that there are a number of schools out there that have installed a 3d quadrat at their school and are using it to collect observations/data. A 3d quadrat is a 1 3m cube made of PVC tubing, or in my case at WAIS,
I will build one out of bamboo since it is study and readily available in Antarctica
for flagging walking routes/plane runway. The pieces of bamboo I will
use actually came out of one of the dumpsters here in McMurdo. My
1 meter long poles are the good half of broken bamboo flagging poles.
I have mentioned a number of times about trash disposal here and how it
is highly sorted and all transported to California on a ship at the end
of the summer season to be properly disposed of. Dumpster diving in McMurdo
is called Skua, named after the large gulls here named Skuas that are
seen around station collecting scrap bits of food. The better the job
everyone does cleaning up after themselves and not leaving food around
outside then the fewer Skua we see. So, my bamboo poles are termed Skua
since I got them out of a dumpster.

Once my 3d quadrat is installed at WAIS Divide camp it then becomes the “place” where I collect my observations and weather data. If I reported the temperature at WAIS
Divide you do not know exactly where I collected that temperature and
for how much of that area that temperature applies. I could collect it
outside the galley and call it the WAIS temperature but that might not
be a good representation of the temperature for the entire camp. When I
collect the temperature and other data it will be from
the area inside my 3d quadrat. Then we can take that number and think about how it applies to the temperature for the rest of the WAIS
Divide camp. The only way to really know if it a good approximation of
the temperature for the entire camp is then to test it and collect
other temperature measurements around camp and compare them. Since
schools and other folks around the world do not have a galley tent or a
drill dome to measure the temperature at we are all finding an “open”
space to install 3d quadrats so that we are all taking our observations/data from the same kind of place.

This may sound a little wonky that we really care exactly where at any place
we collect observations/data but we need to standardize as much as we
can when we go to compare observations from one place to another. We also
care what the variation in temperature around any “small” area on Earth
might be and what we record as the (average) temperature for that area. Part of the problem in understanding climate change and global warming is comparing our observations from different spots on Earth. Later I will talk more about 3d quadrats and how collecting observations/data and understanding their importance. At this point you may be interested to use the weather data at the head of each blog to compare to your home area.

Today I also took a guided tour of the pressure ridges on the sea ice outside
the Kiwi Scott base. Pressure ridges are formed as the sea ice is
pushed by the advancing ice shelf up against the shore and the sea ice that is frozen
to the shore. Since the sea ice here is only 2-4 meters (6-12 feet) thick it easily
buckled by the pressure of the advancing ice shelf. The pressure ridges
I saw were 1-5 meters (3 – 15 feet) high above the rest of the sea ice. These ridges are spectacular to see up close and they also create breaks in the sea ice through to
the water underneath which provides a place for seals to surface and emerge. These Weddell Seals all seem to be over 500 lbs and lie around on the sea ice basking in the sun leaving periodically to eat.

The images today are of pressure ridges, seals, and a new plume off Mt Erebus.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Hello Zach: I hope that the lack of news for two days now is good news and that you've made it to the WAIS Divide research site. You are doing a great job with this blog and helping me learn much more about what Ken, his colleagues, logistics and support staff are up to. Thanks very much.