Brazilian Antarctic Program – Criosfera Traverse

Criosfera I module was commissioned in 2011 and is one of the few year-round atmospheric monitoring stations in the interior of Antarctica (84ºS/79.3ºW).

About Criosfera I

The module measures air temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure and solar irradiation, as well as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air and on-site snow deposition. The data is accumulated in a “datalogger” and mean values are sent out each hour by satellite. Monthly sampling of aerosols is made at the module with the objective of analyzing their elemental and ionic composition.

Criosfera I – Installation and Fieldwork

The Criosfera module was flown to Union Glacier in 2011, by ALE’s Ilyushin 76-TD, then transported 255 nm (472 km) by ALE tractor train to it’s final location.

In 2013 and 2014 ALE provided intercontinental and feeder flights for researchers from the Instituto de Geociências Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Brazil, who spent several weeks working at Criosfera I. Additional services included meals and accommodation at Union Glacier Camp, preparation of a skiway at Criosfera I by ALE tractor and groomer, and cargo delivery to the site.

In 2013 ALE also provided a guide and vehicle support for several days of fieldwork in the Union Glacier area.

WAIS Traverse

In 2014 a second team undertook a 1200 km (746 mile) traverse from Criosfera I, past Mount Johns and onward to Union Glacier, supported by Arctic Trucks Ltd. This traverse expanded Brazilian Antarctic Programme activities to new areas of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. During the traverse, the team sampled snow and ice for chemical analysis and environmental interpretation, with the aim of looking for links to South American climatic variability.

The traverse route was finalized in consultation with ALE’s travel safety team, who reviewed high resolution radar satellite images, glacier velocity flow charts and their extensive field knowledge to assess crevasse hazards and surface conditions. An ALE travel safety guide accompanied the traverse, with ALE providing all food and field accommodation for the scientists.

A secondary objective of the 2014 traverse was to find a suitable location near Mount Johns to install a second module, Criosfera II, in 2015 with logistic support provided by ALE.

Earlier Projects

ALE first worked with the Brazilian Antarctic Program in 2009, when we flew a group of UFRGS scientists to Mount Johns. The team drilled a 250ft (75m) ice core that completed one of the gaps in the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) snow sampling net over Antarctica. A second group undertook atmospheric and geological studies in the Independence Hills.

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