Chilean scientists and military researchers will jointly assess climate changes in South Pole glaciers during air and land expeditions in late 2004, announced Chilean Defence Minister Michelle Bachelet.
The land and air missions will set out in November and December, said Ms. Bachelet adding the aerial team would also explore Chile's Northern Patagonian ice field. The land expedition made up of seven researchers and six officers was organized by the Defense Ministry, Armed Forces and the Scientific Research Center in Valdivia.
Chilean Air Force pilots will lead the air contingent with support from NASA. Both missions will try to determine the extension of the effects of global climate change on glaciers.
In 2002 during the first cooperation effort between NASA and Chile's military, researchers discovered Antarctic glaciers had shrunk significantly, apparently showing that ice masses were reacting to global warming faster than had been anticipated.
The ground team will travel 1,084 kilometers to the South Pole starting from Patriot Hill's camp, some 3,150 kilometers from Punta Arenas. The cost of the expedition is estimated in two million US dollars.
The route according to Ms. Bachelet will enable scientists to study in greater detail the glaciers' internal structure and thickness, mass distribution and any changes arising from snow accumulation.
During the expedition there will be gravity measures every 20 kilometers and continuous GPS contact to improve Antarctic charting. On the return trip from Admunsen-Scott the expedition will stop at two degree latitude intervals for further data collection.
Chilean Navy will be flying P-3 aircrafts with NASA researchers to determine heights changes in ice covered mountain ranges, and to improve the performance of a low frequency radar.
The mission is part of the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition, which aims to analyze climate and chemical-atmospheric changes covering thousands of kilometers in the region. However this is the first time a Latinamerican country organizes and is directly involved in a research experience of this nature.
Other participating nations include United States, Japan, China, Norway, France, Italy, Sweden, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.