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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 03/23/2010

Start of spring for us, darkness at South Pole

By Ann Posegate

* Unsettled today, sunshine returns tomorrow: Full Forecast *

South Pole aurora.jpg
Aurora Australis at the South Pole. The Pole experiences six months of darkness every year, beginning a few weeks after the sunset in late March. Photo by Patrick Cullis, National Science Foundation.

This past weekend, while the Northern Hemisphere sprung into spring and the Arctic sunrise brought sunlight to the North Pole for the first time since September, the other end of the Earth began six months without sunlight. The South Pole's only sunset of the year occurred at 2:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time yesterday (9:01 a.m. on March 23 South Pole/New Zealand time).

Keep reading for more on the change of season at the South Pole...

Forty-seven scientists and staff will winter over at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station this season, continuing astronomical and atmospheric research that began in summer. The crew celebrated the year's sunset with a group dinner and party.

The U.S. Antarctic Program flew its last flight of the season to and from the South Pole Station in mid-February, bringing in essential supplies such as food and fuel and carrying out summer-only staff, waste and scientific samples, such as those from the Atmospheric Research Observatory. The next flight to resupply the Pole will arrive in October.

While the sun will not shine there for the next six months, the Pole will experience spectacular views of stars, the moon and the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) during the Southern Hemisphere winter. Temperatures will reach nearly 100 below zero Fahrenheit and wind chills may dip down to 150 below. Aren't you glad it's spring in the Northern Hemisphere?

View a live webcam from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, courtesy of the United States Antarctic Program.

The author was part of a group of journalists selected by the National Science Foundation to travel to Antarctica in January and report on weather, climate and environmental science research going on there. Read more about Ann's trip from previous posts.

By Ann Posegate  | March 23, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  International Weather, Posegate  
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From Weather Underground:

Chance of Snow. Partly Cloudy. High: -40 °F . Wind North 17 mph . 20% chance of precipitation (water equivalent of 0.01 in). Windchill: -95 °F . "

Kind of puts Snowpocalypse in perspective...

Posted by: wiredog | March 23, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

For the lowest temperatures of the Antarctic winter, check the Weather Underground posts for the Russian Vostok station. Generally these are the low temperatures recorded for any weather station on Earth. Only occasionally is the South Pole colder than Vostok.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 23, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

So Ann...was watching the History channel show called Pawn Stars (that's P-A-W-N) last night and actually thought of you. It's a reality show about a pawn shop in Vegas. A guy brought in what he said was a South Pole marker. Basically it looked like a ultra big metal (bronze?) hockey puck and he said that every year they place a new marker down at the pole location because the the ice shifts and the previous markers are no longer at the pole. He said you can stand at the newly placed pole marker and see the line of old markers. Saw the pic of you by the barbershop pole but the ball did not look anything like his marker. Just wondering if they simply move the marker or if you can see the old marks... and if there was an actual commemorative piece to the South Pole.

Posted by: amaranthpa | March 23, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

amaranthpa - There are two actual poles at the South Pole: one marks the geographic South Pole, and the other is ceremonial. The photo I posted on CWG back in January was at the ceremonial pole.

As for the geographic marker ... While the geographic South Pole does not move, the ice sheet below the marker does -- it's a glacier that moves over bedrock toward the ocean. On January 1 each year, the staff erects a new marker in the new location about 30 feet from the old one. As far as I know, past markers are left up for a few years, then displayed at the South Pole station. The pawn shop version was probably (hopefully) a replica! Check out this article for more information and a picture of the 2010 geographic marker.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | March 23, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

The marker at the pawn shop was likely a replica, as they sell replicas in the store at the South Pole station. I have one from 2007. Seeing your pictures Ann made me long to go back to the Ice. I miss it down there.

Posted by: gnomish | March 23, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Thanks. I think he said it was from 1959 so one would think it was a replica or one of the machinists extras the article talks about. But since they say they don't know where the actual one from 59 is...;-) Interesting article.

Posted by: amaranthpa | March 24, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

So when I look at the live WebCam, it does not look like night. Is it 'twilight' time there for a few more weeks?

Posted by: amaranthpa | March 24, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

amaranthpa- Yes, there's a lag time before complete darkness sets in.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | March 25, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

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