The fall equinox signals the coming of winter for the Northern Hemisphere, but heralds the arrival of spring — and the first sunrise since March — for researchers at NOAA’s South Pole Atmospheric Baseline Observatory.
For NOAA Corps Officer Gavin Chensue (photographer) and NOAA scientist Dave Riebel, it means that their winter in the most inhospitable place on Earth is coming to an end, and they are getting ready to go home later this fall, now that they can get a flight out. The two will be replaced by NOAA's first all-women South Pole research team.
“The winter was incredibly beautiful, and I forged friendships that will last forever ... That being said, I am glad the sun has risen,” said LT Chensue. “The sun means that very soon I get to return to my extremely patient wife; it means I no longer have to live under fluorescent lights; and it means that soon I can finally get a decent cup of coffee. I know I will miss the experience I have had at South Pole, and I’ll try to enjoy it as much as I can for my final few months.”
"I am looking forward to grass, trees and the ability to go outside wearing less than 10 kilos of clothing, but this year has been an amazing experience," said Riebel, a scientist with NOAA's Global Monitoring Division. "No doubt I'll be smiling as I step on the plane in November, but I am equally certain that come next March or April, I'll be looking back on this year with a great deal of nostalgia.”
The South Pole has some of the cleanest air in the world, which makes it an ideal location for NOAA scientists to take long-term climatological measurements, continuously sample for greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, monitor air quality, and study the Antarctic ozone hole in September and October.