2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

EAGER: An operational system to measure surface mass balance deep in the interior of the Antarctic ice sheet

Surface Mass Balance monitoring systems for ice sheets being serviced in 2016.
Photo by Santiago de la Peña


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1654922

Program Manager:
Dr. Michael Jackson

ASC POC/Implementer:
Neal Scheibe / Paul Sullivan / Leah Street

Principal Investigator

Dr. Santiago de la Pena

Ohio State University
Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center
Columbus, Ohio


Supporting Stations: South Pole Station
Research Locations: On station


Snow accumulation and redistribution by wind are important components of the climate of Antarctica yet remain largely unknown. Direct observations of snowfall and related weather are few, leaving a gap in the regional climate records of the continent. Because of Antarctica’s size, even small fluctuations in the total snow accumulation at the surface have a significant effect on the mass budget of the ice sheet and thus on global sea level. This project will install sensors at South Pole to record weather, snow accumulation, and structural conditions within the layer of packed snow. The autonomous system will be tested in the austral winter and will provide the first continuous measurements of snow-accumulation processes in the interior of the ice sheet, which will be used to validate atmospheric and regional climate models.

Field Season Overview

The PI and one other participant will deploy for six days to install the detectors at the South Pole. They will drill a 30-meter deep borehole for a compaction monitor and anchor rod, will erect a power and instrumentation tower, and will bury a sensor under the snow surface. The instrument positioning needs to be at least 150m away from buildings to avoid drifting, away from heavily trafficked areas, and close enough to be accessed from the station. The exact location of the instrument will be determined at a later date. Data is transmitted via Iridium provided by the PI, and power is provided by wind and solar attached to the instrument and stored locally in a battery bank, so no connection to the South Pole Station power grid is necessary. The project requires a generator, a hand torch, a Kovacs drill, and 30 drill flights (approximately 30 meters worth) during the initial installation.

Deploying Team Members

  • Salvatore Candela
  • Santiago de la Pena (PI)