South Pole Intrigue

May 18, 2010 0 Comments

I see in the previous blog post, Kristen reported on how the NCDC calculations indicate that April of 2010 was the warmest on record (since 1880). On a related note, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station reported that 2009 was the warmest on record for the south pole. The average temperature for the year was -54.2. The old record was -54.4. Even with record warmth, it is still bitter cold down there.

Staying at the south pole, or on Antarctica more precisely, a story I have been following is the attempt to drill down into lakes that have been frozen over for more than a half million years. Being that the water in these lakes has been sealed-off from the rest of world for so long, exotic new species of animals (probably just small critters like algae, bacteria, and plankton). One lake in particular that has been the site of controversy is Lake Vostok. It is the biggest of Antarctica’s sub glacial lakes. Russian researchers stationed there had at one point tried to drill through the ice with a kerosene lubricated drill rig. International protests by scientists persuaded them to stop before they broke through into the lake. If they had succeeded, the pristine lake would have been contaminated with large volumes of kerosene. Still, many scientists, including me, are very interested to find out what is down there. Thankfully, some scientists are working on cameras and “cryobots” that can either be drilled through or melt through the ice. Here is a story about one of the cameras that has been used in other antarctic areas. The Russians are also working on a method of intrusion that will not cause contamination and expect reach the lake at some point late this year or 2011. I’ll keep you posted.

Have a nice Tuesday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.

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