In a few days' time the participants in FINNARP and SWEDARP, the Finnish and Swedish Antarctic research programmes, will travel to Cape Town and then on to the summer season in Antarctica. Two researchers from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) are part of the group. They will spend seven weeks in December and January working within the atmospheric project MARA (Moveable Atmospheric Radar for Antarctica).
This season the MARA project will measure winds, waves and high altitude clouds with the help of an atmospheric radar. The aim is to increase our understanding of how clouds in the upper atmosphere are formed (at 85 km height above the polar regions) and how air masses are transported and mixed lower down in the atmosphere. Airborne particles - aerosols - have an impact on the formation of the clouds, and indirectly even on the climate since the appearance of the clouds partially regulates how much radiation comes in from the sun and how much is radiated out by the earth. After this season the radar will probably be moved to another part of Antarctica for comparative studies. The equivalent measurements are done continually over the Arctic by the ESRAD radar in Kiruna. The leader of the MARA project's research is Professor Sheila Kirkwood, IRF.
"The research done with MARA can also increase our knowledge of meteorological disturbances in this part of Antarctica," says Sheila Kirkwood, and continues: "This means that even other research stations can benefit from the results."
The Swedish research station Wasa and the Finnish one Aboa are only 200 metres from each other and both countries have long collaborated on logistics and medical care; this time even on research. Wasa and Aboa together form the so-called Nordenskiöld base. As the Swedish station is not staffed this season the Swedes will participate in the Finnish programme instead, as the MARA scientists also did in the 2007/08 season.
The Finnish research station Aboa was built on Vestfjella in Queen Maud Land in 1988/89. The station is at 73°03'S, 13°25'V on the nunatak Basen, 130 km from the coast. The research station can house up to 18 people and is only staffed during the Antarctic summer.
Researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and Helsinki University also participate in the expedition. They will work on meteorology and glaciology, respectively.
The Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) are governmental organisations under the Ministry of Education and Research. The task of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat is to promote Swedish polar research by organising and leading research expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, primarily as part of international efforts. IRF conducts research, observatory activities and education in the fields of space physics, space technology and atmospheric physics.
The Swedish participants Maria Mihalikova (left) and Daria Mikhaylova, both from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna. Photo: Swedish Polar Research Secretariat.
Hans Nilsson (left) och Ingemar Wolf from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna attach the last cable to the MARA radar at the Swedish Antarctic station Wasa in the 2006/07 season. Photo: Hans Nilsson, IRF.
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The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is a governmental research institute which conducts research and postgraduate education in atmospheric physics, space physics and space technology. Measurements are made in the atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere and around other planets with the help of ground-based equipment (including radar), stratospheric balloons and satellites. IRF was established (as Kiruna Geophysical Observatory) in 1957 and its first satellite instrument was launched in 1968. The head office is in Kiruna (geographic coordinates 67.84° N, 20.41° E) and IRF also has offices in Umeå, Uppsala and Lund.
Institutet för rymdfysik, IRF, är ett statligt forskningsinstitut under Utbildningsdepartementet. IRF bedriver grundforskning och forskarutbildning i rymdfysik, atmosfärsfysik och rymdteknik. Mätningar görs i atmosfären, jonosfären, magnetosfären och runt andra planeter med hjälp av ballonger, markbaserad utrustning (bl a radar) och satelliter. För närvarande har IRF instrument ombord på satelliter i bana runt tre planeter, jorden, Mars och Saturnus. IRF har ca 100 anställda och bedriver verksamhet i Kiruna (huvudkontoret), Umeå, Uppsala och Lund.