First SAWS Antarctic Ozone Sounding Released

Posted on 7 January 2019

With the Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) well underway, SAWS joins the global data acquisition of ozone in the polar regions with their first successful sounding release on Boxing Day 2018 at the Antarctic ice edge.

The SAWS marine unit recently embarked on including ozone observations during strategic upper air balloon ascents on the SANAE take-over cruise (December 2018 – March 2019) onboard the SA Agulhas II. These measurements fall directly in to the data acquisition objectives of the Polar Prediction Project (PPP), a key project of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) World Weather Research Program (WWRP). The SAWS marine unit received training on ozone upper air ascents and undertook a successful test sounding prior to the preparation of the vessel in late November. Three ozone soundings are scheduled for the SANAE take-over cruise, two at 54˚ S and one at the ice edge (pictured).

Ozone gas, which is formed when short-wave UV sunlight interacts with oxygen molecules, together with oxygen gas, convert UV light to heat. These gases are found spread out across the Stratosphere, 10 to 40 km above the earth’s surface. Thus this protective layer above the atmosphere protects the earth from harmful UV radiation, effectively trapping 98% of these rays. However where pollutants have negatively interacted with ozone particles and eroded this protective layer, UV rays are then able to penetrate to the earth’s surface. Consistent monitoring in strategic regions becomes critical to understanding this phenomenon.

SAWS are looking to continue with ozone measurements on future SANAE take-over cruises, past the YOPP activities. Additionally, ozone will be undertaken on any Winter cruises to the Southern Ocean SAWS will become involved with on the SA Agulhas II.