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Spring in the Arctic

Greetings from sunny Ny Ålesund, worlds Northernmost permanent settlement, they say, though Station Nord in Greenland and Alert in Canada are more North and permanently occupied, at least. Nevertheless, since February we’ve been resolving the mystery of secondary cluster and aerosol formation in the Arctic.  I guess, we have been very successful in that – thanks to great instruments and very high data quality – and with high confidence already know the primary mechanisms and chemical compounds involved. However, other mechanisms may arise, when the summer proceeds and nature’s emissions evolve. We will find that out.

Wildlife update: Svalbard reindeers, seals, birds, arctic foxes, colleagues saw also walruses and other colleagues saw some whales, which I missed. Still waiting for polar bears which are predicted to start hanging around in the area this time of the year.

Below some photos from last weeks.

-Mikko

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Oh no! We lost a propeller blade on flight from Longyearbyen to Ny Ålesund!!
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Ice calving glaciers are everywhere. Also a bit of sea ice. It is rare nowadays here…
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A Dutch ship in Kongsfjorden
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Ny Ålesund village
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Bottom of Kongsfjorden
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Our setup is located in a cabin ca. 2km from Ny Ålesund village.

Ny Ålesund, March 2017

March 3rd, 2017 – Ny-Ålesund, 79°N. Maybe one of the most beautiful places on Earth, certainly among the coldest… But surprisingly, when walking outside with -15°C, the small “cloud” that usually forms when breathing in such cold temperatures never appears. This might be a sign of the exceptional cleanliness of the site, where aerosol particles onto which water vapour condense to form the expected cloud seem to be missing. This assumption is supported by the measurements that have started at the beginning of the month in Svalbard. Particle counters can barely detect a few hundreds of particles, while concentrations in urban atmosphere frequently reach several tens of thousands of particles. Our main objective is now to provide information on the origin of these particles. Given their small sizes (few tens of nanometers), they are likely to be formed through gas to particle conversion, including especially nucleation and subsequent growth of nanometer sized clusters. But who are the gaseous compounds involved in these processes in such a unique environment? Our particle counters and mass spectrometers have started their investigation!

– Clemence & Jani.

The expedition  runs until fall 2017. We will keep you updated with news and experiences from time to time.

Greetings from “almost Antarctica”

I was supposed to go to Marambio base, Antarctica to service some equipment and to make preparations for the field campaign. It didn’t really work out.

After arriving in Buenos Aires on 22.1.2017, I and my colleague flew south to Rio Gallegos over night 24th Jan. After waiting a day or two there for the proper weather window we boarded the Argentinian Air Force Hercules C-130 cargo plane and took off toward our final destination, Marambio Base, Antarctica. After about 3-4 hours flight we started the approach to Marambio. Then the bad luck (that eventually lasted for more than two weeks) started. The weather had turned bad at the site. After three failed attempts to land and three subsequent pull-ups we needed to turn back towards South American continent and Rio Gallegos to refuel. Luckily the plane had extra fuel tanks, availability of air stripes is quite limited over Antarctic Ocean.

What was a bit creepy was the sudden hot air stream entering the cargo compartment (where we, few soldiers and a bulldozer were traveling) during the last pull-up. The cabin temperature rose very fast to or above typical sauna temperatures and for a short while I thought that one of the engines is on fire. The soldiers looked, however, calm and thus I concluded that either a) they don’t care or b) this is just “normal”. Due to terrible noise inside the plane and my limited Spanish skills I could not ask. Thus I just decided that it’s the latter. Nevertheless, because of the temperature I moved to the cockpit for the rest of the journey and watched how all four fuel gauges unavoidably approached zero. After 8 hours of flying and burning some 40 tons of jet fuel, we eventually landed safely to Rio Gallegos.

After waiting maybe two additional days in Rio Gallegos base, Air Force decided to take the plane back to Buenos Aires for service. We left together with the plane after concluding that Buenos Aires is much a more nice place to wait than Rio Gallegos air base. Since that, I have been waiting here for the next attempt to fly back to R. Gallegos and further to Marambio. Meanwhile, I have been meeting the staff at the local Meteorological Office and the Airforce and been planning the future research and related logistics. The flight has now always been postponed by 24 hours at the time, altogether 264 hours since getting back here. Now I cannot wait no more even though I still would have a week before I must be back home. But no sane person goes to Antarctica without at least a week or two spare. I will fly back to Finland, and hopefully will access the site in the end of the year.

-Mikko, Buenos Aires, 8th February, 2017.