The Untersee in East Antarctica is a fascinating body of water that has been estimated to be ice-covered for 100 thousand years already. Therefore it is a perfect location for meteorological research stations. For this reason, the Research Institute SETI installed a new weather station here recently…
Photo credit: Terskov – Fotolia
Lake Untersee, which means “Lower Lake”, was named after a German Antarctic expedition taking place from 1938 to 1939. The researchers discovered, that the chemical features are very special: the sediments of the lake, for example, produce more methane than any other natural aquatic system on the planet, the upper 70 meters of sea water have a high pH value from 9.8 to 12 .1, and there is a 150-percent over-saturation of dissolved oxygen. With an area of 11.4 square kilometers (4.4 square miles), the water has the largest surface of a freshwater lake in the interior of the Gruber Mountains, which are located in the center of Queen Maud Land. The lake is permanently covered with ice and is partially bound by glacial ice.
The SETI Institute recently installed a new weather station near the lake, where a Lufft WS501-UMB is used as well. Similar to other existing stations, this one will collect data completely self-sufficiently. The weather station is connected to its own 150 AH (solar battery) serving as power supply, which should withstand the harsh weather conditions: The water temperature varies between 0.5 °C (32.9 °F) and 5 °C (41 °F) and the ice is between two and six meters (6.6 to 19.7 feet) thick. The prevailing ambient temperatures normally vary between -20 °C and 5 °C throughout the year. At the moment there is a redundancy with another older station that consists of a Lufft WS501 and some temperature-humidity sensors. Another station is planned, but in 2014 it was not possible to install them because of the tough weather conditions. So this is expected to be rescheduled in November 2015 when the weather conditions are milder.
Soon, the data are transmitted and it is interesting to see what they will contribute to the study of Untersee and the entire Antarctic revealed.
About the SETI Institute
SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and is a private, nonprofit institution of scientific research, education and outreach dedicated to search for aliens. It was founded in 1984 and consists of three centers: the Center for SETI Research, the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe as well as a center for Education and Public Outreach. The association employs more than 130 scientists, educators and assistants in the moment.
For his studies, Research Director Dale Andersen travels into various environments such as the Chilean Atacama Desert, the Permafrost of Siberia, to the world’s most northern lakes and springs in the Canadian Arctic and into the depths of the polar oceans. His mission: explore the unknown.