Chinese scientists are planning to install a wireless sensor network in the South Pole that will enable them to monitor Antarctic glacier changes with a click of mouse from Beijing, polar researchers said on Thursday.
The network will be installed during China's 24th Antarctic expedition scheduled for October, said Dr. Cheng Xiao, a remote sensing specialist of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Cheng and 16 other potential Antarctic explorers are currently receiving a two-week field training program in Tibet that will equip them with survival skills on high altitudes.
He said the planned network consists of many single chip devices that will collect data from the Dome-A, 4,093 meters above the sea level and the highest point on the continent.
"These white boxes, about the size of cell phones, also process and transmit data so that we can receive them from our offices in Beijing," he said.
The research program is aimed at a continuous, and more reliable, measurement of the Antarctic glacial changes.
Satellite remote sensing technologies have helped scientists create high-resolution maps of Antarctica, measure movements of the icecap, and track the melting of ice and snow on its surface.
"But the satellite data are still not reliable enough without evidences from the ground, which are difficult to get given the tough Antarctic environment for human and machines," said Cheng.
Altogether 219 explorers are expected to join the forthcoming Antarctic expedition to conduct 37 scientific research projects and 10 logistic renovation projects.
One of their missions is to fix the site of China's third scientific research station at the South Pole, a planned observatory at Dome-A, probably the best location for astronomical observations on the continent, said Zhu Zhenxi, an astronomer.
He said the station will be equipped with seven telescopes, one acoustic radar, two devices that monitor atmosphere movements and four interswitchable dynamos.
Scientists will also erect a 30-meter tall automatic meteorological recorder on the Dome-A, said Zhu.
Construction of the new station is part of the country's contribution to International Polar Year (IPY) 2007/2008 which runs from March 1, 2007, to March 1, 2008.
The observatory will be used for scientific research in summer but will eventually be developed into a permanent station capable of accommodating scientific research all year round, said E Dongchen, director of the Chinese Antarctic Center of Surveying and Mapping.
China has built two permanent exploration stations named Changcheng (Great Wall) and Zhongshan.
(Xinhua News Agency August 23, 2007)