Follow me on a National Science Foundation media expedition to the bottom of the World

January 7-14, 2010

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Greenhouse Grows at the South Pole

"What's round and red and grows at the South Pole? A tomato!"

So begins my latest Antarctica article (and probably the last for a little while) South Pole Greenhouse Proves Bountiful, published in the Washington Post's KidsPost a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Latest article: Observing weather at the Pole

It's been a while, eh? Antarctic winter will officially be over next Wednesday, September 22, while we in the Northern Hemisphere will experience autumnal equinox -- the first day of fall. The sun will rise at the South Pole for the first time since mid-March. And let me tell you, the staff will be happy to see it!

My latest Antarctica article, Observing Weather at the Bottom of the World: The South Pole, covers the "why behind the Antarctic sky" and takes a look at how meteorologists monitor weather in such a remote and extreme location. It was published last week in the Sept/Oct issue of Weatherwise magazine. This article was particularly fun to write: I got to geek out about weather for 5,000 words straight! The Antarctic atmosphere is amazing. Take a look for yourself and post any questions or comments you have below.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

NEEM ice core reaches Greenland bedrock

Last week, my travel partner to Antarctica, meteorologist Dan Satterfield, traveled to another icy part of the world: Greenland. He's reporting on the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) project - the Arctic equivalent of Antarctica's WAIS Divide core. The NEEM ice core will give an accurate account of the Northern Hemisphere's temperature up to 120,000 years ago, before the last ice age. This week, the NEEM team finished drilling the core and reached Greenland's bedrock a mile below the surface.

Read more and watch the video below to learn about NEEM and ice cores. Follow Dan's reports at and on Facebook.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide -- Earth's Climate History Hidden in Ice

Crazy 'bout ice cores

Last week, meteorologist Dan Satterfield and I presented about Antarctic science and our trip at the American Meteorological Society's (AMS) 38th Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in Miami. The slide show, videos, photos and content are all freely available online for use in education/outreach efforts or for your learning purposes (credit

Among other things we and another speaker, Joseph Souney, covered is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS, pronounced 'wayss') Divide ice core drilling project. Joe works in the project's Science Coordination Office based out of the University of New Hampshire.

A back-lit snow pit showing annual layers of snowfall accumulation on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet over the past few years. The darker thick layers are winter snowfall, the lighter thick layers are summer snowfall. Photo by Julie Palais, courtesy of National Science Foundation.

Although Dan and I did not have a chance to visit the field site in January, we are both dedicated to spreading the word about this major study. I encourage you to learn more through the project's website and videos. In addition, I created a fact sheet fact sheet for distribution through Earth Gauge and at AMS. Here's the gist:

What is an ice core?
An ice core is a cylindrical sample of deep ice taken from Antarctica, Greenland or other locations in high mountain glaciers. Glaciologists retrieve cores in order to analyze gases from ancient air bubbles trapped within the ice, as well as [the ice itself], in order to understand Earth’s past climate ...

Analyzing the core
Scientists analyze gases from the air bubbles, such as carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. In addition, they measure sea salt and trace elements such as lead trapped in the ice (in Greenland ice cores, lead has been a useful indication of human impact, since it is expelled by the burning of fossil fuels). They also measure hydrogen isotopes from melted ice to determine the atmospheric temperature at the time of snowfall, and oxygen isotopes to reveal humidity. This information is then entered into climate models to show the relationship between
temperature and gases over thousands of years ...

The significance of the WAIS core
The WAIS Divide ice core has the highest time resolution of any core ever extracted on Earth. The study will provide the most detailed record of greenhouse gases -- including carbon dioxide -- ever measured for the past 100,000 years of Earth’s climate history. Scientists will be able to determine annual data for the past 40,000 years by analyzing the electrical properties and chemistry of the ice cores, which vary seasonally. They also date the cores by identifying volcanic ash layers from known eruptions (the photo above shows an ash layer in the left segment of a core; copyright Chaz Firestone) ...

Download the full document.

Other WAIS Divide materials from fellow Antarctic journalists:
Dan is headed to the Arctic in a few weeks to cover another major ice core study, the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) project, which will provide reliable climate data for the past 120,000 years -- basically a Northern Hemisphere version of the WAIS core. After analyzing data from the WAIS Divide and NEEM cores, scientists will have a much better understanding of Earth's past -- and future -- climate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Longest day for us, midwinter for Antarctica

As the world turns, our summer solstice and longest day of the year yesterday in the Northern Hemisphere was a true turning point -- and cause for celebration -- at the South Pole and other stations around Antarctica: midwinter, the day in which the sun is at its lowest point on the horizon (either way, it's still dark!). Only three more months until the sun rises.

Midwinter is a true accomplishment for those spending six months in darkness, and a unifying event at a time when they are otherwise isolated from each other by a cold, vast desert of ice. South Pole meteorology manager Tim Markle recently said in an email to me: "Well, we are quickly approaching mid-winter. Soon sunlight will appear on the horizon and we will have light at the end of the tunnel."

The image above is a midwinter greeting from U.S. McMurdo Station. The two below are from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Palmer Station, respectively.

Best of luck on the remainder of the season, everyone.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

More information about midwinter in Antarctica.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The arugula salad and chili were the best!

Some of you may be wondering how and what people eat on an continent where the only soil is buried under two miles of ice and the sun does not shine for six months out of the year. Here's a piece by fellow Antarctic journalist and friend Chaz Firestone about growing -- and eating -- food in Antarctica: Frozen Foodies. My favorites: the arugula salad at the South Pole and the AMAZING chili made by Karen Moore at Marble Point in the Dry Valleys.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Mysterious Mountains" and Warmest Year

I've been absent from the blog lately, but I'll have a few more materials trickling in this summer. Nonetheless, polar science and outreach remain strong throughout the year. Here's some recent news:

--Mysterious Mountains Hidden Beneath Antarctic Ice Revealed at the International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference happening this week (the things that get me the most are the liquid lakes that lie beneath a one- to two-mile thick ice sheet).

--South Pole Has Warmest Year on Record
(On a related note, read my Q&A with South Pole meteorologist Tim Markle. Tim recently experienced temperatures below -100 degrees Fahrenheit in April, which is very early in the year for the Pole to be that cold; 2009 was also Earth's second warmest year on record.)

Dan Satterfield and I are also presenting about Antarctic science at the American Meteorological Society's 38th Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in two weeks. Should be fun! More soon ...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pee bottles, Penguins in The Washington Post

My article on environmental awareness in Antarctica was published today in the Health & Science section of The Washington Post today. Check it out!

Guarding Antarctic Ecosystems: Antarctic researchers ease the impact of scientific activity on pristine environment

Other features:
--Sidebar: Measured by carbon footprint, travel to Antarctica has tons of impact
--Photo gallery: Antarctica's pristine nature

Let me know what you think by posting a comment or question below.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New video: Ann's Antarctic Adventure!

I've been working on a video summarizing my trip in January -- including science and travels -- for the past several weeks, and I've finally finished it. Check it out!

Questions or comments? Please leave them below.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunset at the South Pole

Sunset at the South Pole, March 22, 2010. Thanks to Nick Morgan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for sharing this photo!

A day-long sunset took place at the South Pole this past weekend, which will result in six months of darkness for the 47 crew members who are wintering over. The sun will not rise again until late September. I've written two short blog posts about it on Earth Gauge and Capital Weather Gang.

Good luck to the South Pole staff and scientists this winter!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New material from fellow Antarctic journalist

Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of IEEE Spectrum, was one of the seven journalists selected for the media expedition in January. He and his team have produced a great two-part audio slide show based on our trip: Antarctic Odyssey (part one), South Pole Sojourn (part two). Well done, and worth a watch!

A few other recent news items to note:
Southern Ocean winds open window to the deep sea
Surprise shrimp under Antarctic ice
Is Antarctica falling apart?