For our #PolarWeek2019, we shared a question every day at 10 a.m. and gave the answer at 15:00. Gathered here are all the Questions and Answers we posted. Enjoy!
Q: Do you have any idea about what a Polar Scientist in the field is going to need surgical masks for? (Hint: it is not a medical-related use)
A: In the frame of the MICROBIAN project (https://microbianantarctica.blogspot.com/), the team was interested in understanding the cross-contamination that might occur while sampling in different environments. Scientists were asking themselves whether some biological material could be brought from one sampling place to another one. To estimate that, they are going to analyze the material that was stick in the surgical masks that they were wearing in a pretty original way: on their knees.
Q: Do you have any idea of what is on these pictures? Don’t you think it looks like a piece of art?
A: These intriguing patterns reveal the orientation of the ice crystals composing a) sea ice, b) lake ice and c) glacier ice. Such pictures can be obtained by placing a thin section (a few hundreds of microns) of the ice sample between cross polarizers. The incident light will be refracted depending on the orientation of the ice crystals in space (more thorough explanations can be found here: http://olympus.magnet.fsu.edu/…/lightand…/birefringence.html). Glaciologists use this technique to investigate the origin of the ice, growth conditions and potential deformation processes.
Q: Do you know what is the lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth and where was it recorded?
A: This time it was thanks to a satellite-related study that scientists were able to discover the Earth’s coldest surface temperature: -98 °C (-144 F). This very low temperature was recorded during the polar nights, between July and August in the East Antarctic plateau. The preliminar conditions that allow temperatures to drop so much (occurring in small dips or shallow hollows in the Antarctic Ice Sheet) are persistent clear sky and very dry air. This is an important condition because the water vapor impedes the loss of heat from the snow surface. Because the cold air is denser than the warmer, it get trapped in this hollows. Feeling shivery?
[picture taken by Valentina Savaglia in the Sor Rondane Mountains, East Antarctica, on January 2019]
Q: How many researchers live in Antarctica during winter and summer time?
A: During summer around 5000 people live in the Antarctic stations, among scientists and logistic providers. However, stations empty during the austral winter, leaving only 1500 people. The biggest station in Antarctica is the USA McMurdo, that host more than 1000 people during summer with 200 overwintering.
Q: Do you know the size of the deepest ice core ever drilled?
A: At present, the size of the deepest ice core is 3270.2 m. It was drilled in 2004 on the Antarctic ice sheet at a location called Dome C, in the frame of the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA). This core provides a unique climatic record of the last 800 000 years. Scientists are currently trying to select the optimal drilling site in Antarctica that would allow to retrieve an ice core that extends this record to 1.5 million years.
If you think about Antarctica you think about penguins, icebergs and the freezing cold. All this is very true but did you know there is also a place where you can enjoy some outdoor spa time?
In the Antarctic Ocean there is a place called Deception Island and it has some pretty unusual traits. The island is actually a caldera of an active volcano which causes the soil and water underneath it to heat up creating some unique opportunities to swim in Antarctic waters. You can swim in the warm shore waters or enjoy a heated outside bath.
However, Deception Island is a lot more than just a natural spa. In the most eastern part of the island there is a very large colony of breeding chinstrap penguins. The colony consist of approximately 100 000 breeding pairs. Next to penguins you can also find different research stations on the island and in the past a whaling station was located here. If you ask me, this is a unique island in an even more exceptional continent.
Thank you to everyone who joined in the fun on FaceBook and gave their answers or just followed along!