Name: Matt Balmer
Location: Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula
Atmospheric studies have been going on at Rothera for over 30 years, providing vital information about the changes going on in the atmosphere above the Antarctic Peninsula. Weather balloons are launched every day, giving scientists an unbroken record of long and short-term trends.
Before you can launch your balloon, you need to calibrate the sensitive instruments attached to the bottom of the balloon so they send back accurate data. This is done by plugging them into a computer to make sure that the readings match for each and every launch.
Careful calibration makes sure that the data coming back from the balloon, when it's high up in the Antarctic atmosphere, is accurate and maintains the integrity of the ongoing dataset.
Once the instruments have been calibrated and checked, it's time to fill the balloon. This is done from a large helium gas tank and takes up to ten minutes.
A radiosonde meteorological balloon holds 2,000 litres of helium, giving it enough lift to climb for up to two hours. Helium is lighter than air causing the balloon to rise rapidly through the atmosphere, while the instruments beneath it sample the required data and transmit the information back to the surface.
Time to release the balloon! A radiosonde meteorological balloon generally rises to a height of almost 30km on a good day. At this altitude the lower atmospheric pressure means the balloon swells to the size of a double decker bus!
Atmospheric data from Rothera has helped show that the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming areas on earth.
Temperatures have risen by 3° C in the last 50 years, causing glaciers to retreat and ice shelves to break up. It is vitally important to continue monitoring the atmosphere above Antarctica and how it changes in response to global warming, and how these changes affect other parts of the Earth System.
Download the data and use it to plot graphs or charts and see if you can identify trends or changes that are occurring as you get higher and higher into the polar atmosphere. Compare your data to see if anything appears to be linked, or perhaps reflect the opposite trend.