29 July 2007

Palmer Station Weather

First I have to say that the weather here at Palmer this winter has been so mild (in comparison to other stations I've worked at) that it never really felt like there was much to write about. We've had maybe two "major" storm events so far this winter, and then this morning when I woke up I could hear the wind howling outside, and realized that I wouldn't be going boating today. Sure enough, we've got winds gusting up to about 50 MPH (back in April we had gusts up to 90 MPH!) and lots of snow. I was almost knocked to the ground by the wind while walking from my dorm to the BIO building. No boating today, as the winds need to be <20 MPH.

Temperatures here in the winter are almost always below freezing (though currently it's a balmy 0.5C) but nothing too intolerable in comparison to Pole or McMurdo. Even when taking windchill into account I haven't experienced anything here like some of the temperatures at those stations, where it can get mind-numbingly and dangerously COLD. Mother Nature is serious trying to kill you at Pole, and without lots of warm layers and an abundance of caution, frostnip or bite is always waiting for you. Here, the greatest cold danger is falling out of one of the Zodiac boats into the sea, where the water temperature is actually slightly below freezing, and it feels like you're being stabbed with one million tiny knives. Panic quickly sets in, and you can't get out of the water fast enough.

One fact about Palmer Station and the Antarctic Peninsula in general is that the temperature has risen 3C over the last fifty years as a consequence of global climate change. The peninsula is truly becoming the "banana belt" of the continent. Here is a link to a good article about what's happening to the Marrs Piedmont glacier directly behind Palmer as a result of the increase in average yearly temperatures. As I look out of my office window some days to witness the glacier calving, I can't help but wonder if there will be any of it left in 100 years. Or if humanity will still be in Antarctica.

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