Some Science

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Summer 07
Winter 07


A few week's ago this week was marked off in my diary as <- talks ->. Thankfully it's only been half talks, and half digestion of talks while convincing computers they want to behave.

Atmospheric Chemistry is the flavour of the week. Ozone popped up first. Both the hole that forms above Antarctica each winter (and which was discovered after observations made at Halley), and measurements of surface level concentrations just to see what they're doing.

Ozone was followed by a short interlude of Health & Safety, complete with mandatory cheesy videos about manual lifting (the Three Ps people) and statistics weighed down by agriculture and construction accidents.

To finish off, we enjoyed the tangy taste of photocatalysed snow air interaction. Until recently this was a branch of atmospheric chemistry that no one bothered with, but is now growing in importance. The first few meters of snow, it turns out, generate strong fluxes of various Nitrogen-Oxygen combinations that no one expected to find. Studying these processes forms important input to global weather models, especially when you consider that for much of the winter, around 40% of the land in the Northern hemisphere is covered in a layer of snow.

Finally, we were introduced to the signals of current climate that get caught by layer upon layer of snow, eventually forming bubbles of gas buried deep beneath the ice surface, but which preserve the state of the atmosphere at the time those layers were formed. Various core drilling projects collect these bubbles and analyse them, allowing us to look up to a million years into the past. Results of these projects have demonstrated how unusual the air's current chemical brew is, and provide strong indications that the atmosphere will respond by warming over fairly short timescales. To be sure of these conclusions, and identify signals due to warming from those due to other effects, it's important to know how different gasses are locked into snow as it forms, and some work is done at Halley to illuminate this.

Science being Science, of course, all of this was obscured by contrived acronyms. At least we can guess at A being Antarcticmumble and C probably being Climatemumble, then figure the rest out from there.

As for the real job, the machines are starting to obey, any recalcitrant cases will fall in line soon or be made examples of.

Next week is Masts, so we're hoping for either clear sunny days, or violent wind. The first for their obvious pleasantness, the second so that we get to see if the safety equipment works...

Also, my housemates demand that I mention how entirely awesome they are.
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