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The ice core reaches 1,000 meters!

Posted January 7th, 2009 by celene.carillo@oregonstate.edu

Name: Logan Mitchell
Date: January 5, 2009
Location: WAIS Divide
Time: 9:20 pm
Latitude: 79° 28’ 1.2” S
Longitude: 112° 5’ 6.0” W
Elevation: 1,759 m
Borehole depth: ~1030 m
Temperature: -13.8°C
Wind speed:  22.5 knots
Visibility: ~50m
Wind direction: 321° Grid
Relative Humidity: 90%
Barometric Pressure:  28.78 mm Hg
Precipitation: light snow
Animals: None
Breakfast: French toast (my favorite breakfast here)
Lunch: (Asleep)
Supper: Asian rice noodles, stirfried pork and veggies, Thai coconut
lime chicken soup, veggie egg rolls and 1000m celebration cake!

Yesterday we reached a huge milestone, or more precisely, a kilometer-stone.  That’s right, we have now drilled down past 1,000 meters!  The age of the ice at that depth is ~4,550 years old.  Can you imagine that?  An ice core, 12cm in diameter, 1000 meters long, and containing a unique record of climate history over the past 4,550 years?  That is so cool!  (and also the most over-used pun in Antarctica!)

We have known for a couple of days that a storm would come, but it wasn’t forecast to be a huge storm, and it has lived up to its lack of expectations.  But, it’s our first real “weather” in a long time, so I thought I’d write a little about it.  Our first “storm” was on Dec 16th, but it only lasted ~12 hours and didn’t give us very much snow.  Since then we have had extremely stable weather: mostly sunny skies with sparse clouds of all types and hardly a breath of wind.

After finishing my shift last night, I went to bed around 11am.  By then the wind had started picking up, but there was still no snow and I could still see some blue in the sky.  Susanne and I are night shift partners, so since the storm was forecast to be strongest this evening, we decided to “carpool” (walk together) from tent city to the Galley when we woke up at dinnertime (which is our breakfast).  When I woke up at 6pm, I noticed that a lot of snow had blown in between my tent fly and tent body and was piling up quick.  Also, the type of tent that we are using (Arctic Oven) has a hole in the top of it for a stove flue, (the fly also has a hole, but the hole in the fly has a flap covering it…I have no idea why they don’t have a flap for the tent body hole!) and this hole was allowing snow to blow in my tent!  Luckily for me, my sleeping bag was not right under the hole, so the small pile of snow was next to me instead of on top of me.  I scooped up the snow and put it outside, then plugged the hole with a pair of cotton socks that I’m not using.  Hopefully that problem is solved.  Next, I got all of my gear on (long underwear, fleece jacket, insulated Carhartt overalls, Big Red down jacket, baklava, goggles, beanie, and gloves) & stepped outside of my tent and what did I see?  Tent city is about 75 m long, and its another 100m beyond the edge of tent city before you get to the first Jamesway of camp.  Well, it was windy and snowing lightly, but I could still see a good portion of tent city which means visibility is about 50m.  Humph.  I know you aren’t supposed to wish for bad weather, but I feel like a good storm is part of the Antarctic experience.  This one just doesn’t quite have enough umph to qualify.  I looked over my tent and found that the snow covering up the corners of my fly had been blown off.  This tiny gap was allowing fresh snow to blow under the fly and accumulate between the fly and body.  I got a shovel and covered them up…hopefully that’ll solve that problem.  We’ll see how it looks in 8 hours when I get off my shift!

With all this good weather here, I have been very curious about what the rest of the climate system has been up to this season.  It could be that this summer here is just an anomalous year, but I wonder if it is part of a larger trend?  If anyone out there in internet land has been keeping up with ENSO or other climate parameters and feels like sending me some general info, I’d love to hear it.  Also, while you are at it, it would be really neat to find out about significant cultural events that happened around 4,000-5,000 years ago (2,000-3,000 B.C.) and let me know about those also.  Since we have limited internet access its hard for us to find this kind of stuff out, and it is really neat to think about what was happening in the rest of the world at the same time it was snowing in Antarctica and making what would eventually be a part of our ice core.  You can email me at logan.mitchell “at” wais.usap.gov.

We have limited internet access here, so please keep the email size below 25kb and don’t send any pictures.  Thanks!

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