Antarctica has always been the last frontier for scientists on Earth. It even parallels to space exploration, considering just how inhospitable its lands are. Windy, cold, and for half the year a perpetual night time are not conditions that make for a comfy science exploration.But nevertheless, scientists are hell-bent on getting to know the southernmost continent.
So, in this spirit, for the first time West Antarctica (or the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS)) is to be monitored, 24/7, 365 days a year, to witness the interaction between ice and the earth below. The mission, to be lead by a team from Ohio State University, has just been awarded $4.5 million by the National Science Foundation.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, saw Terry Wilson, leader of the mission entitled POLENET, explained how they would overcome the harsh conditions.
First off is to fly ski-equipped aircraft to remote locations across the WAIS, and plant the instruments – GPS trackers and seismic sensors – on the bedrock that cradles the WAIS. These instruments will send signals back to the United States via satellite, and work year round.
“We’ll be able to do systems-scale science in Antarctica. That wasn’t possible before,” said Wilson, associate professor of earth sciences at Ohio State. “This instrumentation is designed to run and record data year-round, through the dark polar night. Previous instrument deployments have largely operated only for a few months, or less, each year. This allows us to do new science.”
The first expeditions for POLENET began arriving in early December, and by the end of February 2008 the POLENET scientists plan to have 17 new GPS trackers installed across the WAIS, along with about 11 new seismic sensors. By 2010 the network will be complete, and will hopefully record data well in to 2012.
International Polar Year Newswire – Scientists to Monitor West Antarctica 24/7