Austral Autumn Causes Lights Out At The South Pole

austral autumn

Sunday March 20 marks the start of austral autumn which means it is goodnight from the South Pole for the next six months.

As the sun sets in the South Pole, researchers at NOAA’s South Pole Atmospheric Baseline Observatory will not see any light for the next six months.

The U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is so cold that even during summer it has few visitors. Extreme cold and high altitude makes the observatory isolated from the outside world.

NOAA reports:

“It’s the coldest, driest, flattest place you can imagine,” said NOAA Corps LT Jesse Milton.

The Atmospheric Research Observatory, the third-generation “clean air” facility located at the South Pole, maintains the longest atmospheric carbon dioxide [greenhouse gas] record on earth, besting the more-famous Mauna Loa carbon dioxide record by one year. Continuous long-term atmospheric records show how factories, households and cars thousands of miles away are changing the chemistry and composition of “cleanest air on earth.” Ozone measurements have been instrumental for researchers studying the annual South Pole “Ozone Hole”offsite link.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole from Patrick Cullis on Vimeo.

Although the 9,305-foot altitude and temperatures dipping below -100°F make this one of the most inhospitable research sites on Earth, there are benefits.

The vast, flat polar plateau offers remarkable and unobscured views of the southern constellations, streaking satellites, and the fluttering, evanescent, Aurora Australis … from a vantage that few other humans have ever seen.

Watch the long night settle over the South Pole on NOAA/ESRL’s live web camera.

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