Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Whimsical Weather

The weather has been all over the place this past week. Last Thursday, it was between 14-20F with an average wind of 18mph. The high wind was 38mph. It isn't cold until you add in the wind chill. It changes everything. I have had a number of Polies (people who work at the South Pole) say that they prefer the temperatures at Pole being 40-60 degrees colder than the warmer, but windier days at McMurdo because you just can't win with the wind. While I'm skeptical about that claim, I also know I am not a huge fan of fighting the wind.

Friday afternoon around town (photo by Holly Troy).

Friday and Saturday, the weather got warmer. We even cleared freezing and made it to 35F. Unfortunately, the wind also jumped to an average of 33mph and a high of 79mph. Walking around town was not a pleasant experience. I think travel was restricted to around town only. You couldn't always see the next building. You needed goggles to block dust particles to protect your eyes. You REALLY needed to want to go somewhere to deal with the weather instead of just staying put in your work center.

Snowdrifts on Sunday (photo by Matt Davidson?).

The best part of the storm was that it snowed, which almost never happens here. When we get snow, it usually just blows in from somewhere else. Such a treat. It was a winter wonderland and this place definitely looks its best coated in snow and ice. In case you are wondering how this place doesn't get much snow, but is covered in ice, I'll try to explain. Antarctica is the driest place on Earth. We get an average of 50" of precipitation a year. South Pole only gets 3". The trick is that what we get, we keep, especially inland.

A Keen trap or a small river.

At the beginning of the week, the weather finally started to clear. The temperature dropped, the wind mellowed to a mere 9-28mph, and the sun came out. The sun coming out was a blessing and a curse. I love my sunshine, but all that sunshine on all that new snow created a giant wetland. You never knew when the ice or snow might give way to a puddle for you to fall into. They would plow the snow drifts that would turn a small pond into a small river racing downhill, usually towards your favorite shortcut. It was so bad, I had to ditch my Keens for three days in exchange for my Keen boots. Today, enough of the snow has finally melted or been moved elsewhere that my Keens are a pretty safe bet again.

Clearing weather over the chalet and Ob Hill

Today is a nice day. It is 15F ambient and 3F with the windchill. Town is pretty much cleaned up. They are moving the last of the major snow off the ice roads and runway which is great for vehicles, but kind of a bummer for skiing. It is great for them because the snow forms an insulating layer which warms the sea ice. Our 625,000lb fully loaded C-17 can only land on a certain quality of ice. Apparently, the first plane in this week had to fly around an extra hour to use up fuel and lighten its load so that it could land safely on the sea ice. As the sea ice continues to weaken, they'll monitor the 'give' of the ice when a plane lands. When it gets to a certain point, they'll move the runway 13 miles out of town to the ice shelf which has less problems, but adds to vehicle costs. Okay, that is the week in weather. Time to get back to my sunshine.

The biggest snow blower EVER clears the ice runway road.

Anecdote of the day: One of the grantees was out in the field yesterday and it was a pretty trying day. Today, he went home in the afternoon to take a nap. He snuck into this room so that he wouldn't wake his night shift working roommate. The roommate wasn't used to him sleeping at the same time as him and had to ask if it was 4am or 4pm because it is always light out now.

Edit: I have a wet sock. It isn't safe yet for the Keens in areas that get a ton of sun.

1 comment:

  1. I love that the new word for small river is keen trap...what else could it be?