Monday, August 01, 2011

Antarctica Through Rosey's Tinted Spectacles

I’ve just started a new contract with BAS (that’s the British Antarctic Survey, not the Bacon Advisory Service). The job is field meteorologist (not Chief Assistant Rind Assessor, or mentoring for the Bumfaces’ Aspirant Scheme). BAS has been in Antarctica for over 60 years and they have always archived metrological observations. The poles are very sensitive to any change in climate so by closely monitoring the polar atmospheres we are able to predict future trends in the global climate.

The job of field meteorologist is to continue making these observations. A lot of this is done automatically (for example, we have automatic weather stations which measure and record wind speed, wind direction, temperature, pressure, relative humidity). We also have snow gauges, radiation sensors, things for measuring ozone, something to do with light and several other gadgets that I’ve not yet got my head around. However, there are some observations that, as yet, cannot be done automatically. For example, recording cloud cover, optical phenomena and different types of weather (thunderstorms, snow, fog, drifting snow). So work will consist of constant monitoring of instruments, attending to any issues that arise, and making manual observations.

For the first three months of this contract I was based at BAS headquarters in Cambridge for Antarctic training. As well as an introduction to the meteorology, we were enlisted on many courses that would allow us to live and work safely as an isolated unit in Antarctica. I was taught about Antarctic camp craft and travel, how to climb masts, how to use Oxy-fuel codes safely (still not sure what that means) and, most importantly, how not to wind up your colleagues when living on a remote base in Antarctica. I will be working at Rothera research station which is on the Antarctic peninsula (the stem of the brain). My contract is for 18 months which will span two Antarctic summers and one winter.