"Weird Weather"

Katy McNitt - January 31, 1995
Expert on Ozone and Climate Change


Things are starting to get pretty quiet at the South Pole, as more and more people "head North for the winter". Most of the construction crew is gone now, and scientists are starting to pack up their summer experiments. In less than two weeks, there will only be twenty seven of us left, and we won't see any new faces until the end of next October!

Last Wednesday we witnessed a unique meteorological event: during an unusually clear day I noticed a "cloud wall" moving toward the station. It was a huge, thick front: solid gray/white Altostratus clouds marching slowly in from the grid south... over Summer Camp... then the Dome... then the Sun was completely obscured. It looked as though someone were slowly pulling a huge quilt over the entire Polar Plateau! If you looked one way, the sky was a clear, dark blue; but if you turned around, it was so white you couldn't even see the horizon between ice and sky. Wow!

We have a scientist visiting the South Pole from our lab in Boulder, Colorado. He's measuring shortwave radiation from the sun, and snow temperatures. He built a special sled with sails, and loaded all of his equipment onto the sled, and trekked out into the Clean Air Sector to make his measurements. I bet he doesn't envy the explorers who had to drag sleds like that over crevasses and sastrugi for months at a time!

I have been spending a lot of time outside, too, collecting air samples and snow samples for the scientists back home. It's only -36 degrees C out, but it feels COLD because just a week or two ago it was a balmy -20 degrees C! We still have a long way to go, though: during the winter we'll see temperatures below -74C, which is -100 F!

What do you suppose happens to a glass of water if you toss it into the air at -74C??

More soon, Katy McNitt LTJG, NOAA NOAA/CMDL
NSF S-257 Monitoring Climatic Change
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

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