Questions for Russ Durkee

Can I answer your questions about Antarctica?Durring the winter of 2005, Russ Durkee, meteorologist at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, answered questions about the South Pole. Learn more about Russ Durkee's research.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

When you say you're observing and measuring weather, what are you actually DOING? And what good is the data you collect? What do scientists learn from it?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:18pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

I am recording weather conditions every hour whenever I am on duty. That means I suit up in my Extreme Cold Weather Gear (ECW) and walk outside and note how much of the sky is cloud covered, the cloud types, and I try to estimate how high they are. We also have instruments that measure pressure, temperature, the amount of sunshine, and wind speed. One of the most important measurements I make is checking visibility in miles. Some days, like today, you can see all the way to the horizon about 7 miles away. And on other days you can't see the hand in front of your face. During the summer, South Pole Station has 3-6 C130 flights a day bringing in scientists, supplies and workers like myself. They can't land if the visibility is less than one mile, if the clouds are below 300 feet, or if it is colder than -50C (-58F).

There have been regular weather observations at the South Pole since the late 1950s. It is an important long term climatological record. It's also a great place to make baseline observations on the atmosphere since it is has the cleanest air on Earth. Antarctica has been home to many significant discoveries, including the hole in the Ozone layer.

posted on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:49pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I'm sure they don't just let guys off the street do what you're doing. So what qualifications are necessary for a weather monitor at the South Pole? And how did you come across the opportunity?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:33pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The folks in the weather dept come from a variety of backgrounds. For example, one observer is a retired Air Force weather meteorologist, another works in Alaska as a hunting guide and also runs a weather station there, and I have an advanced degree in Meteorology, but I also build exhibits at the Science Museum of Minnesota the rest of the year.

Generally, folks must have experience as a weather observer or a meteorologist and have an understanding of the somewhat arcane coding that we use to report the weather.

I learned of the US Antarctic Program through a college friend about 15 years ago.  About five years ago I started applying for contracts to work in Antarctica in a number of jobs including meteorology.  I heard that about 15,000  people applied for jobs this year.  So competition is stiff.  Then last year, my wife landed a job and spent a summer at the Pole and got to know the head meteorologist.  When one of the regular meteorologists had a medical problem this year, I received a call asking if I could fill in.  Even though it is a short assignment, I jumped at the chance!

posted on Tue, 11/01/2005 - 3:37pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Can you describe what your day is like?

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 3:36pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

I work the 3pm - Midnight shift so my day will start at about 10 or 11 am. I get up, suit up, and walk to the station for breakfast.  I may check email, do laundry, or head back outside for a walk around the station to take photographs. I will also be working in the food growth chamber a couple of hours a week.  Then once my shift begins, I get a brief from the current observer about recent weather.  At about forty minutes past the hour, I suit up and head outside to check visibility, cloud types, and altitude.  This takes about 10 minutes. 

Once inside, I compile a weather report and send email it off to McMurdo Station.  The remainder of the hour I may be prepping a weather balloon for launch, checking weather data for consistency, or preparing other reports. That usually takes up most of the remaining hour. If an airplane is coming in, and the visibility is bad, I may be outside for hours at a time watching for the visibility to improve enough to allow for a landing. Once the shift is over, I suit up and head out to my room.

posted on Tue, 11/01/2005 - 3:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hi Russ,
What do you eat at the South Pole? What are the toilets like there?

It sounds like a really 'cool' job there (haha).

Thanks for sharing your interesting research with us.

posted on Sun, 10/30/2005 - 9:22pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The food here is fantastic. Cookie Jon and Chef Wendy are masters at keeping us well fed. Every meal is like an old fashioned Sunday dinner.

There is a good supply of fresh veggies this time of year, but the
folks who spend the winter here are not so lucky. They have fresh veggies (freshies) grown on station in the food growth chamber, but the supply is pretty limited.

We have flush toilets just like anywhere else. But water is in short supply here since we have to melt snow to make it. Melting snow requires fuel which must be flown in...so water is a precious resource that we have to conserve. Lets just say we don't flush every time we use the toilet.

posted on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:36pm
Bill Maloney's picture
Bill Maloney says:

Do you really make weather observations every hour? What does this do to your sleep cycle which is probably pretty whacked out already by your journey there and the pretty much constant daylight?

posted on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 1:49pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

I am part of a team of meteorologists who are on shifts 24 hours a day.

Right now I am working the 4pm-1am shift. During that time period we
do go outside every hour.

The station operates on New Zealand time, or 18 hours ahead of Minnesota. I have not had any difficulty sleeping here, but there are a lot of people who do. We are at high altitude here (9000 ft) and low pressure (about 670mb) so the body thinks it is at 11,000 ft. Most of the sleep problems are due to altitude and not the daylight.

My room has shade that I can Velcro to the window. After my shift, I just shade the window and go to sleep. If I have to get up in the middle of the night though, it is a bit of a shock to see the bright light, not to mention walking through an unheated hallway to the bathroom!

posted on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What's the sky like at the South Pole? Can you see lots of stars?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:17pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The sky here is huge! There are no obstructions on the horizon so the size of the sky is amazing. For the last few weeks, the sky has been mostly clear and deep blue. Since it is summer here, we have constant daylight. So there are no stars to see until after sunset next March. After that point it will remain dark until October. In other words, there is one sunrise and one sunset at the South Pole each year.

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:18am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is there a South Pole equivalent of the Northern lights? What causes the Northern lights, anyway?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:18pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Yes, there are Southern Lights. The Southern Lights are called Aurora Australis while the Northern Lights are known as the Aurora Borealis. Whenever there are Northern Lights, there is usually a similar display of the Southern Lights.

The Aurorae are caused by high energy protons and electrons that are ejected from the Sun. These particles travel through space and some are trapped in the Earth's magnetic field where they are guided to the north and south magnetic poles. When these particles collide with oxygen, and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere, they give them a kick of energy. The energy is temporarily absorbed by the nitrogen and oxygen, and then released as light. Typically the nitrogen will emit a bluish glow, while the oxygen will emit a green or a red light. So when the sun is active we get more Northern, and Southern, lights.

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:22am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What are other scientists doing at the South Pole this summer? Any interesting projects?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:19pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

There are dozens of projects going on right now. The largest project by far is the IceCube project. The purpose is to build a huge neutrino detector buried deep beneath the ice. Neutrinos are subatomic particles that rarely collide with any type of matter. Because of this strange behavior, the detectors have to be huge. Neutrinos are created in violent explosions found in such objects exploding stars, neutron stars, and black holes. IceCube should help us understand the mechanisms behind the most energetic objects known in the universe. It is also hoped that this unusual telescope could reveal clues to the nature of matter balance in the universe.

The project requires the careful installation of 4,200 sensitive light detectors hanging on 70 strings like a pearl necklace buried 1.4 to 2.4 kilometers deep in the ice. When the neutrinos collide with the atoms in the ice, a particle called a muon is created which in turn makes a flash of light. The light created by this particle is picked up by one of the thousands of detectors. The direction of the flash of light points the way back to the source of the neutrinos. Astronomers can then point other telescopes toward these sources to further investigate what interesting things might be happening in that part of the sky.

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:27am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The staff at Amondson-Scott grow their own food? What kinds of things can you grow?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:19pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

We grow a small amount of our food, but the vast majority of our food is flown into the station over the summer months. The growth chamber here at the station grows mostly cherry tomatoes, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, and a few herbs. Today we harvested about five pounds of cherry tomatoes, and a few pounds of lettuce. With 200 people on station right now, that does not go very far. But the fresh veggies ("freshies") are greatly appreciated by everyone on station!

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How did you get interested in meteorology?

posted on Fri, 11/04/2005 - 4:21pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

I guess it started with a childhood fascination (and fear) with severe weather and tornadoes. I can also remember doing pretend weather forecasts for my friends when I was a little kid. So I have had an interest as long as I can remember.\r\n

posted on Sat, 11/12/2005 - 11:30am
MOM's picture
MOM says:

WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION DO METEOROLOGISTS NEED?\r\n

posted on Wed, 11/09/2005 - 3:23pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

It depends on the job.

For a job like the one I have here at South Pole, the main requirements are a knowledge of the arcane coding meteorologists to describe the weather. The coding, called METAR or Synoptic code, is a series of numbers and abbreviations that are strung together to make up an official weather report. You can learn this coding in a number of ways.
My coworkers and I either have military experience or formal training in weather observing from the National Weather Service, or training from a college weather program.

Television and radio "meteorologists" sometimes have training in meteorology and sometimes they do not. It depends on the standards of the station. Some are just reporting the weather from the national weather service, while the real meteorologists are able to interpret and predict the weather. Comedian and talk show host David Letterman's first job in television was as a "weatherman" in Indiana. Dave was not
a meteorologist. But as far as I can tell, the "meteorologists" on the weather channel probably hold at least a bachelor's degree in meteorology.

Most real meteorologists have at least a bachelor's degree in the subject. A lot of them have master's degrees or Ph.Ds. No matter what the education level, a good meteorologist should have a lot of experience monitoring and predicting the weather. Coursework in physics, weather prediction, radar meteorology, cloud physics, thermodynamics, global air circulation, and fluid physics are usually required before someone is awarded a formal degree in meteorology. Masters degrees and Ph.Ds require additional coursework, exams, and completion of an original research project along with a written dissertation describing the experiment and the results.

posted on Mon, 11/14/2005 - 10:50am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

If it's always light at the South Pole, how are people using all these telescopes? I always thought astronomers worked at night because they needed the dark?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:28pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

It is light now, but it is dark for six months of the year! Summer months are used for maintenance and upgrades for the optical telescopes.

But there are huge benefits for infrared and longer wavelength telescopes at South Pole. The dry, high altitude environment makes this the best site in the world for these types of telescopes. Also there are a number of 'telescopes', like the ICECUBE, and Amanda, that do not detect optical light but instead see subatomic particles that are raining down on (and passing through!) the Earth day or night. So they are able to operate year round, light or dark, clouds or not.

posted on Wed, 11/16/2005 - 10:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Is anyone where you are studying penguins? I love penguins, and I know that they are being harmed by global warming. I'd like to help stop global warming, but I'm too young to help very much. Is there anything I can do?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:30pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Unfortunately there is no wildlife here at South Pole. Some of my coworkers are pretty hairy, but I don't think they count as wildlife...

We are on a huge ice sheet with nothing but a flat landscape of ice and snow as far as the eye can see. Although occasionally a Skua (a type of seagull) will fly the 800 miles to the pole from the coast. I think it would be really nice to have a dog living at the station, but they are not allowed.

Everyone can help slow global warming by using less electricity. Since most of the electricity we use is made by burning coal, which makes carbon dioxide gas and is the source of most of the warming. We can ride our bikes or take the bus or train instead of driving. Or we can use only fuel-efficient cars since they produce less carbon dioxide. We also need scientists who will work to develop energy efficient technologies such as solar, wind, efficient mass transportation, and a new generation of nuclear power plants.

posted on Wed, 11/16/2005 - 10:47am
From the museum's picture
From the museum says:

Is it anecdotal to assume that the decrease in polar caps is a result of global warming?

posted on Sun, 11/13/2005 - 3:33pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The link is clear. Global warming is melting ice in Antarctica and especially at North Pole and Greenland. In Antarctica, the melting is seen near the edges of the continent where huge ice shelves are melting and icebergs are being created. The effect of an enormous influx of fresh water into the oceans is not completely known. However there are reasonable suspicions that a huge fresh water influx into the North Atlantic would change the warm ocean circulation which is responsible for the warm climate over Europe. Ironically, Europe could cool significantly
due to global warming.

posted on Wed, 11/16/2005 - 10:51am
Kathryn's picture
Kathryn says:

How does the temperature in the atmosphere change? Does the wind change it, or does it change because of other factors?

posted on Sat, 11/19/2005 - 1:38pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

We get weather systems just like anywhere else, the pressure rises and falls in response to air that moves in from the coasts. But we have some weird things going on here, mostly due to our geography and the fact we are so cold. Typically our winds tome from East Antarctica where you find the highest parts of the continent. The air is even colder there and at high altitude, so it flows down to the lower parts of the continent. The pole many thousands of feet lower than these areas and we get most of our wind from those high locations. This wind gets very strong in the winter and it has a name, the Katabatic wind. But when a strong enough weather system blows in, our local atmosphere is mixed along with the incoming air and we usually get warmer temperatures. The warmth comes from both the incoming weather system and the warm air that resides a few hundred meters off the surface here getting mixed with the cold air at the ground.

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:19am
kaia's picture
kaia says:

what made you want to be a meteorologist?! and why!?

posted on Sat, 11/19/2005 - 8:00pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

In a way that is kind of like asking why I like to eat. I have always been interested in science and had a fascination with tornadoes and clouds. As a kid I would sit in the yard and watch the clouds with binoculars. I still do that now and then. When I went to college I studied physics and astronomy (my two other passions...) and worked a lot in research labs. When I was applying to graduate school, I found a meteorologist who needed help in a laboratory that studied the physics of clouds and raindrops. It was a natural fit to my experience and interests so I enrolled in the program and did my graduate work in cloud physics.

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:21am
Nikki's picture
Nikki says:

How warm does it get in the summer at the south pole?

posted on Sun, 11/20/2005 - 2:36pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Typically the summer temps get to about -10F or so during December or January of each year. The record temp is +7.5 which was measured on December 27, 1978. The average temp here is -57.1F, which indicates that most of the time is it very cold here!

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:22am
Evan's picture
Evan says:

Russ,

I have recently learned that causation (as it pertains to science and other empirical knowledge) does not, in fact, exist. Moreover, philosophers (e.g.Karl Popper) offer well-supported claims to the fact that we do not possess any knowledge at all. That is, we do not know anything. Accordingly, what merit is there in studying temperatures that could be drastically different and consequently useless tomorrow, even though expierence suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, thank you for your work on an area that may (though I do not know) be useful to all of humankind.

With a shared love of scientific knowledge,

Evan Fuhs, student of Augsburg College, Minnesota

posted on Sun, 11/20/2005 - 3:23pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Of course we possess knowledge. Otherwise I would not be at the South Pole, and you would not be able to make your statement.

Science and mathematics are powerful tools used to describe reality. But the real power is not in how well these tools describe a present phenomenon. That can be done by critical observation and does not always get at the underlying mechanics. Scientific knowledge can be demonstrated when a phenomenon is understood to the point where one can describe it through experiment and mathematics so completely that it is possible to not only describe the present phenomenon, but also the past,
and predict future outcomes.

The deeper question of why or what is the definition of knowledge is not typically in the realm of science but the job of philosophers and the religions of the world.

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:23am
Luke's picture
Luke says:

Russ,

Have you ever seen Star Wars: The Empire strikes back? I am a huge fan of the series, especially this movie. This is because I love the planet Hoth, which is the ice planet of Star Wars. Is the south pole anything like the planet Hoth? If so, I'd like to come!

May the Force be with you,

Luke (just like Skywalker from the movie!)

posted on Sun, 11/20/2005 - 3:30pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Only like a thousand times! The South Pole is similar in some ways. We are an isolated and remote outpost in a cold, desolate plateau. We have snow tunnels that look exactly like those in the movie with water/utility pipes and cables here and there. Similar to Hoth, meteorites are often found in Antarctica. Parts of the station look like the interior of a ship or maybe even a spaceship. We have a large satellite dish that keeps us in contact with the outside world. There are no blasters around, but there are lasers that measure how high the clouds are. Instead of snowspeeders we have snowmobiles and C130 aircraft and a lot of weird tracked vehicles. There are no Tauntauns or Wampas, or any wildlife at the South Pole for that matter. The
landscape here at pole is free of mountains, unlike Echo base in the movie. But there are parts of Antarctica that look just like the location in the Movie.

Fortunately no Imperial Walkers have appeared on the horizon, but I will keep an eye out for them!

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:25am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do you think it is harder to become a scientist or to work as a scientist?

posted on Sun, 11/20/2005 - 4:55pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

This is a GREAT question! I may also be revealing a little secret. In my experience, becoming a scientist was much, much more difficult than actually working as a scientist. Scientific degrees require many years of mathematics and physics, plus courses in a specialty, and the usual courses in writing, history, art etc. It is fun, but a lot of work. During that time you are constantly learning how to use the tools of a
scientist, but very rarely do you get to participate in actual science. Science is also about learning scientific method, how to become a critical observer, and how to interpret real world data. I had to get that experience by taking part time work in research labs and doing my own independent work. It became a lot easier for me after completing my formal education because I was more free to pursue my own interests, and I am probably better at those things I enjoy doing.

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 2:26am
Grant's picture
Grant says:

What is the temp today.\r\nHow many layers of clothes do you wear?\r\nWhat did you have for breakfast?\r\nWhat wildlife do you see?

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 12:50pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

On November 27th it was -35F with a windchill of -55F. This feels like a nice day here as long as you stay out of the wind.

What I wear depends how cold it is. But usually three layers. I wear a thin long johns and top, a thin fleece, and my red parka. On the bottom, I wear a thin pair of long johns, jeans or expedition weight long johns and car-hart overalls.

I usually have cereal for breakfast most days, but there are usually eggs, sausage, and hash browns each day.

There is no natural wildlife here at the South Pole. But every so often a sea gull will fly the 800 miles from the coast. We have not seen one this year.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:26pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

hey dude! how does it feel to have such a fun job? well i think u are a pretty cool guy .

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:05pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Yeah, I am very fortunate to have such a fun job. Thanks.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:29pm
erin's picture
erin says:

Did u know Steve Hendricks?\r\nWhat is a normal temp. at the south pole?

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:04pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

No sorry I don't, but there are about 250 people here right now and I don't know them all.

The average temperature here is -57.1F! But the range can be from near -100F in June to a few degrees above zero in December.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:31pm
ryan's picture
ryan says:

how cold is it?

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:08pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

On November 27th it was -35F with a windchill of -55F. This feels like a nice day here as long as you stay out of the wind.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:32pm
Jeremy Gilbert's picture
Jeremy Gilbert says:

Dr. Durkee,
I hope you are having good weather there. I am in 4th grade and like science. Are there biologists there? What are they studying?

Jeremy

posted on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:55pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Thanks for the promotion, but I actually have a Masters degree so I am not actually a Dr. There are a lot of Biologists in Antarctica, but none working at the South Pole. Biologists spend most of their time near the coasts where all the Antarctic wildlife live. I know they are studying penguins, seals, and a huge variety of sea-life.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

why is it always light in summer and dark in winter in Antartica?

posted on Thu, 11/24/2005 - 12:31am
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Because the Earth's axis is tilted. And as the Earth orbits the Sun each year, the tilt always stays pointing in the same direction. So for part of the year, Antarctica is pointing away from the Sun and it gets very little or no sunlight. Then, during the summer Antarctica is pointing toward the Sun and we get 24 hours of daylight.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:34pm
Clarence Chaplin's picture
Clarence Chaplin says:

How fast is the ice melting in antartica due to global warming

posted on Fri, 11/25/2005 - 2:29pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

A recent study demonstrated that 85 percent of the Antarctic glaciers are receeding. Most of the warming effects are visible near the coasts. Interestingly, all weather stations in Antarctia, other than South Pole, are showing a slight long-term increase in temperature. South Pole is showing a very slight long term decrease of a fraction of a degree.

RussD

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 2:58pm
Clarence Chaplin's picture
Clarence Chaplin says:

HOw do they measure the age of the ice when sampling for carbon dioxide?

posted on Fri, 11/25/2005 - 2:32pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Carbon dioxide is measured from tiny bubbles trapped in the ice. But the age can be measured in a couple of different ways which when used together result in reasonable dating. If the ice is layered with some identifiable seasonal signature, such as seasonal differences in snow density, or seasonal depositions of clay or dust, a date can be determined directly by counting rings. Most of the time, the relative quantities of Oxygen isotopes in the layers are used most. Dust layers from known volcanic eruptions are also helpful in dating certain layers.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:35pm
Grace's picture
Grace says:

Do people get cold there? Are there ever any cave-ins where you stay? Do you ever see any penguins? What is the fastest wind speed that you have observed?

posted on Sat, 11/26/2005 - 11:37am
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Yes, we do get cold if we are outside for too long, or if we do not dress properly. But inside the station it is quite warm and comfortable.

Are there ever any cave-ins where we stay? No. The new station is up on stilts. But the old part of the station is partially under the snow. But the structure is still holding up to the years of accumulated snow. Snow is a pretty structurally. There is a huge array of ice tunnels beneath the station that carry water, sewage and electricity to the remote parts of the station and they are very safe and strong, even when huge bulldozers are plowing snow overhead.

There are no penguins at the South Pole, but I might get to see them when I stay at McMurdo station near the coast on my way back home. I will be looking for them.

The winds at the South Pole are generally pretty calm. The peak wind observed here was only 55mph back in 1989.

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 8:37pm
seattle sam's picture
seattle sam says:

How did you get to the South Pole? What do polar bears eat?\r\n\r\nWill and Sam age 7and 9

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 1:16pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Hi Will and Sam,
There are no polar bears in Antarctica, they are arctic (northern) animals. I think they eat mostly seals and anything else that they come across.

The route to the south pole is all by airplane. I flew from Minneapolis to Denver, then from Denver to Los Angeles. Then I flew overnight (14hours) from LA to Aukland, New Zealand. Then I took another three hour flight from Aukland to Christchurch, New Zealand. After getting my cold weather gear, I flew on a US Air Force, C17 transport to McMurdo Base on Ross Island in Antarctica. The final leg is a 3 hour flight on a US Air Force C130 with skis instead of wheels.

The total time in the air was someting like 36 hours, not including an overnight stay in Denver, Christchurch, and McMurdo station. It was all really fun actually, but the military transports are very noisy!

Russ

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 2:54pm
adam's picture
adam says:

what is the coldest temp. ever recorded at your station?

posted on Sun, 11/27/2005 - 1:54pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The lowest temperature at South Pole was -126 F, while the coldest temperature recorded anywhere was at Vostok Station Antarctica, -129 F in 1983!

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 3:19pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

How different is the weather in Antarctica near the South Pole from, say, 100 or 500 miles away in Antarctica?

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 1:49pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The weather on the polar plateau is very similar to the South Pole. However there are higher and colder areas 500-800 miles away. Dome A and Dome C, in East Antarctica are both higher and colder than the South Pole.

Russ

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 3:08pm
From the Museum Floor's picture

How deep is the snow at the South Pole?

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 1:50pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

The snow is 9,300 feet deep at the South Pole. There is so much snow, that after about the first 1000 feet, the weight of the top layers compress the lower layers into clear ice. So there is actually 1000 feet of snow and about 8000 feet of clear ice!

RussD

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 3:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I don't really get how hurricanes work. Can you help me?\r\n

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 11:47am
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Sure. Hurricanes work by a feedback process that is really interesting. By feedback I mean the formation of a hurricane sets up a situation where it builds on itself, the bigger it is the bigger it gets.

Here is a summary: A hurricane needs warm water to get started. Once a low pressure center developes enough thunderstorms over warm water of the tropical ocean the storm can start to grow. The warm air is pulled up into the storms which condense water vapor into clouds. This process releases heat in the transformation of water vapor into water droplets. That heats the storm more which makes it rise faster and grow with more energy. Because the air rises a lot it draws in more air from below near the sea surface. This brings in even more water vapor to fuel the storm! The system grows rapidly and can last for weeks as long as there is warm ocean water. That is the basics of the feedback process. But there is a lot more too if you want to know more about the shape and the eye and stuff like that.

This is my favorite hurricane site.
http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/hurr/grow/home.rxml

posted on Sat, 12/03/2005 - 1:58am
Kate's picture
Kate says:

Why should I care about the weather?\r\n\r\n

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 11:47am
RussD's picture
RussD says:

Every living thing survives in part because of our atmosphere. Of course, weather affects our day to day life, but we are also dependant on it for our long term survival. Recording weather is key to understanding the health of our atmosphere and the long term changes in our climate.

posted on Sat, 12/03/2005 - 2:06am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How do you survive at the south pole? How long can you stay outside without it causing injury to your body?

posted on Fri, 12/02/2005 - 7:40pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

We survive by shipping in a lot of fuel, food, and mostly staying inside the heated buildings. Yet with proper clothing you can stay outside all day if you want to. In fact there are a lot of people who work outside all day. But they have to keep thier skin covered, or they will get frostbite in a few minutes. The biggest problem is frost bite on the nose, and fingers. After a while of working outside your hands can become stiff and very cold. A lot of people put hand warmers in their gloves, but they only last for a little while. The only option then is to go inside and warm up. Early after my arrival, I saw someone get frost bite on thier nose in less than five minutes. But the temperature was -65F and the windchill was below -100F!

posted on Sat, 12/03/2005 - 2:13am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

What sort of activites keep you busy when your not keeping track of the weather?

posted on Sat, 12/03/2005 - 7:42pm
RussD's picture
RussD says:

While we are on duty, we keep busy watching for sudden changes in wind direction, speed, or visibility that might prevent aircraft from landing. The cold prevents automated stations from making these observations reliably so a human is required. We also verify previous measurements for quality to make sure they follow our notation rules. In addition we are working on digitizing the ~50 years of meteorological data that is still mostly on paper. That is an enormous project that will take years to complete.

When off duty, some of us work in the station store, or help out in the kitchen, or work in the plant growth chamber. Other folks enjoy sledding, cross country skiing, and even jogging outside when it is warm enough. There are also classes being taught here by folks who have specialties in languages, yoga, and dance. I also like to walk around outside the station, taking photographs. There is plenty to do to keep us busy when we are not working and there are plenty of creative and interesting folks around to keep it fun.

posted on Tue, 12/06/2005 - 3:57pm