Concordia, a new French-Italian facility for international and long-term scientific activities on the Antarctic Plateau

Project Description
While there is an increasing awareness of the importance of Antarctic research, the 14 million km² Antarctic continent still only houses two permanent inland research stations, Amundsen-Scott and Vostok. Recognizing the unique research opportunities offered by the Antarctic Plateau, the French and Italian Antarctic program agreed in 1993 to cooperate in developing a permanent research support facility at Dome C. The new station, named “Concordia” (75°06’ S -123°23’ E), will be opened for wintering in 2005. However, the two first years will be mainly dedicated to the achievement of the buildings, tests of safety protocols and settlement of some scientific equipment. For this reason, Concordia is expected to be fully operational when the International Polar Year starts, in 2007. Dome C has several valuable characteristics that support the installation of a permanent scientific station: A substantial layer of ice, about 3,300m thick, offers great potential for climatic reconstruction. Ice cores were collected by the EPICA program, a European project involving 10 countries, and more than 900,000 years of climatic records are expected from these samples. In addition, numerous small lakes have been detected in vicinity of Concordia, giving opportunities for exploration and tests of new technologies for the exploration sub-glacial environment. The area corresponds almost to the centre of the polar vortex, a major component of the Antarctic Oscillation driving the heat and mass exchanges between the Antarctic continent and the surrounding ocean-sea-ice-atmosphere coupled system. This area is also suitable for studying the ozone depletion and the subsequent cooling of the stratosphere in spring. The Concordia station is a vantage central Antarctic site to analyze polar meteorological high-resolution data and to evaluate the performance of satellite instruments in terms of local and large scale circulation, surface meteorology and processes, boundary layer and free atmosphere meteorological profiles… The Antarctic Plateau is a well recognised, favourable site for astronomic observations due to its geographic location and its extremely dry, cold, rarefied and stable atmosphere. Millimetric/microwave polarimeters can exploit their high sensitivity in Dome-C, rivalling with space based instruments in selected sky areas. Dome-C is the only built location on the Earth where the 200 micron window is usable; the extremely low atmospheric emissivity will also allow optimal use of the other mm/sub-mm atmospheric windows for Galactic, Extragalactic and Cosmological studies. Dome C is a particularly promising location, at critical distance from highly active seismic regions to allow optimal sampling of the deep mantle and the core in crucial geometries. Besides, it is situated on the East Antarctic plateau about 1,000 km away from the coast in a site potentially very quiet and therefore ideal for seismographic observations. Dome C, at 3,233m above the continental crust, is protected from any magnetic perturbations by earth crust anomalies and is an ideal place for studying magnetism. Concordia is also a unique place to study the Earth-Solar relations within the particular polar cap region, and to understand their symmetrical and asymmetrical properties with respect to the Northern hemisphere Dome C is as a very isolated site with severe climatic conditions. It will be an excellent site for evaluating techniques and procedures for future work on other planets. It is also an excellent site for studying small groups of people in conditions close to those encountered in space vehicles or orbital stations. So, Concordia Station will be a new earth observatory and a logistic centre permitting the exploration of the East Antarctic plateau and giving opportunities to deploy new technical challenges and international projects.

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