Penguins at last!

During the night of January 21-22, 2011 — the night I finally flew out of the ice — we witnessed a live “show” of an Adelie penguin versus a Weddell seal at the Hut Point on Ross Island in Antarctica. I also photographed four emperor penguins standing beside the runway to Pegasus International Airport. The beauty of Antarctica has attracted so many people year after year regardless of the harsh environment. Even before I boarded the northbound C-17 flight, I had already begun to miss the magic of Antarctica! Continue reading

Triumph at McMurdo, Antarctica

Patience, creativity, and persistence finally paid off! The A-130 lidar team successfully resolved the lidar EMI (electro-magnetic interference) issue at Arrival Heights in the 9th week at Antarctica.

Nice weather has returned to McMurdo so the team is happily running the lidar to collect data for our science goals. An icebreaker ship, Oden, finally made its way through to reach the Hut Point on Sunday, January 16, 2011, and a research vessel, Palmer, followed its path to dock at McMurdo. I finally climbed to the top of the Observational Hill the night of January 17th, 2011. All these came along with the arrival of Dr. Chet Gardner – a colleague and dear friend of mine and the co-PI of this lidar project! Continue reading

8th week at McMurdo: Science activities & Skype teaching on ice

After the gorgeous weather around Christmas (maximum reaching about +5C with clear sky), McMurdo had overcast sky for nearly two weeks from December 28th, 2010 to the morning of January 9th, 2011. Since the lidar beam couldn’t penetrate such thick clouds, we took this time to optimize the lidar system, provide training opportunities to our winter-over student Zhibin Yu, spend tons of time to work on the EMI issue, and do preliminary analysis on our lidar data collected so far. The 8th week was highlighted by Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili’s 2nd visit to our lidar at Arrival Heights, the science lecture I gave to the folks at McMurdo and Scott Base, the teaching of a lidar class to CU-Boulder graduate students via Skype, and a new classical story of Zhibin! Continue reading

Happy New Year 2011 from Antarctica!

We at McMurdo are probably one of the first groups in the world to enter the new year 2011, as the local time is the same as New Zealand (two hours ahead of Australia, five hours ahead of China, and 20 hours ahead of Colorado). A special new year celebration was named “Ice Stock” at McMurdo – a music festival from 6pm to 1am. The warm weather around Christmas didn’t repeat, and the outdoor temperature was around -7 deg C during the celebration. Even so, many people still stayed hours enjoying the different music bands. We came to the celebration just before the new year bell, and joined the folks in counting down the time.

“Happy New Year!!!” — Finally we burst out this greeting from our hearts!!! Saying goodbye to the wonderful year of 2010, as the new year of 2011 brings bigger hope to everyone! We are looking forward to science breakthroughs and more lidar adventures in 2011!

A relaxing moment for the lidar team (Weichun, Xinzhao, and Wentao). Zhibin was sleeping so missed this celebration.

Two gentlemen between Wentao and Xinzhao are Bernie and Floyd, two very nice men who helped us in the safety plan.

(4) IMG_6440.JPG: The stage for the Ice Stock with quite professional bands.

More folks in the celebration, with John Meyers (in blue) standing beside Weichun.

The 7th week in McMurdo was totally cloudy with decreasing temperatures. We spent our time in two major events: (1) lidar optimization and winter-over training, and (2) EMI (Electro-Magnetic Interference) tests and mitigation. The first task is going very well, and the EMI is becoming “fascinating”. Recent VLF data indicates that the VLF experiment is so sensitive that it can detect a desktop computer booting up and detect when a UPS is cycled on/off without a power draw! We have consulted with numerous people, including Communication Engineers, Electricians, Electronics experts, in an attempt to understand the sources of the EMI and how it might be mitigated.

Two great friends, Dr. Susan Solomon and Dr. Geary Schwemmer, sent me notes to introduce their experiences in diagnosing and mitigating EMI. Susan had a successful experience of solving an EMI issue at Arrival Heights more than 20 years ago. All are very helpful suggestions, and we do suspect something weird is going on with the power grids or grounding. On new year’s day, our lidar team did further tests to identify the EMI from each individual piece of lidar equipment when it was connected to different phases of the US standard power or to AntNZ power, with or without an isobar power strip, etc. We have ordered RFI power line filters, and tried to get an iron box and iron conduit built to shield our high-voltage power supply and umbilical. It is quite time consuming, but we do hope to solve the EMI issue with the new year spirit!

McMurdo Research Associate Kris Young brought me to the second crater to visit the US VLF radio sensor in the afternoon on December 31st, 2010.

Climbing to the summit of the 2nd crater wasn’t easy, especially in the cold and fogy weather. Water holes on the sea ice were emerging as blue holes in the background.

A photo shot at the Arrival Heights US and Kiwi’s buildings from the 2nd crater. Kiwi’s dome was in the background.

Kris Young gave us a tour to the inside of the US Arrival Heights building. It’s a very nice working environment, and we like it. What is more fascinating is that many UPS with exactly the same model as ours (APC 1500) are being used in this building, and that was what Kris and Zhibin trying to point out in the picture. How can our UPS cause EMI while theirs don’t? It is still a puzzle!

My impression about Antarctica used to be dominated by the South Pole experience, where the environment is very stable and clean: ice and snow all year round, and the sun circling around the pole 24 hours a day with similar solar angles in the summer. But at McMurdo the scene changes dramatically even just through the summer season. We got running water from the mountains just by melting snow!

Water from snow/ice by a foothill near McMurdo.

Happy New Year 2011 to everyone!



6th week at McMurdo, Antarctica: Christmas on Ice

The Christmas 2010 at McMurdo was marked by nice, warm and clear weather, delicious Christmas dinner, and the hard work of the lidar team at Arrival Heights. It’s certainly an unforgettable one!

Excited by the preliminary results of our 24-48 hours of continuous lidar data, the lidar team members were determined to collect more data while optimizing the lidar system during the Christmas weekend from Friday 12/24/2010 to Monday morning 12/27/2010. Everyone contributed significantly, and I tuned my schedule to work with the winter-over PhD student Zhibin Yu in the lidar operations. This provides us more opportunities to go through the lidar principles, technologies, and in particular the Fe Boltzmann lidar system in more details. I’m very delighted that Zhibin is making significant progress. In the meantime, we utilize short group meetings to discuss issues occurred during the lidar operations and optimization so that students and research scientist can learn more about lidar, and we can update the lidar operation procedure and check list to make them more suitable for the new environment. Continue reading

5th week at McMurdo, Antarctica: Happy Solstice!

December 22, 2010 was a summer solstice in Antarctica but a winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.

I am very happy to announce that we successfully obtained both channels (372 and 374 nm) of lidar data with the Fe Boltzmann lidar from Arrival Heights, McMurdo in Antarctica on December 20th, 2010. And the lidar operation lasted for 48 hours across the summer solstice point (0:48 UTC on December 22, 2010). This is another milestone of the lidar project, although there is still a long way to go to optimize the system. Continue reading

4th week at McMurdo, Antarctica: First lidar light off Arrival Heights

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The 4th week (December 4-16th, 2010) was long and dramatic for the A-130 lidar team because we went through hell to reach the heavens!!!

First, what happened in the heavens?

I am very happy to announce that we obtained the first Fe signals (372 nm) from Arrival Heights on December 16, 2010. It was at 1:50am UT, and the layer’s peak was at 96 km – quite high, indicating PMC heterogeneous removal effect! Although there is still a long way to go, the first light is a milestone for the lidar project! Continue reading

3rd week at McMurdo, Antarctica: assembling the lidar

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The 3rd week on ice was extremely busy so this post will be short as I need to get up earlier tomorrow morning to deal with many things. Despite quite a lot of frustration, the important progress we made included:

  • All lidar boxes were finally moved into the Arrival Heights Kiwi’s laboratory on December 1st, 2010;
  • two power consoles were fixed and powered up successfully, including the seawater-moisture damaged one;
  • the 372-nm laser was successfully up running at our first try to fire it up;
  • and the overall structure of lidar setup emerged.

Continue reading

An unfortunate challenge and some creative solutions

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Happy thanksgiving from McMurdo, Antarctica, although a few days late!

What a busy and tough week we had on the ice! Construction, moving, unpacking and installation become so difficult in this cold world! Seawater-moisture, damaged power console and broken frames were the subject of this week, but at the end victory smiled upon us!

Continue reading

Warm greetings from McMurdo, Antarctica!

Once again I am on the ice. It is my 5th trip to the Antarctic, and also the beginning of our new lidar campaign at the USAP (United States Antarctic Program) McMurdo Station (77.85S, 166.67E). The purpose is to complete an observational chain for Antarctica in combination with previous lidar measurements made at the South Pole (90S) and Rothera (67.5S, 68.0W), Antarctica. Continue reading