Alexander Mangold servicing his instruments on the roof - © International Polar Foundation / Alain Hubert

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Antarctica’s aerosol man

For the fifth time and the fourth consecutive year, Alexander Mangold, a 42 year-old German researcher at the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, returned to see the Princess Elisabeth station and his precious instruments.

A scientist at heart

Alexander is a geo-ecologist, one of the environmental sciences. He specialises in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere.

The instruments he takes care of each year with love are located on the roof of the station, in a shelter on the ridge next to the station, and on a glacier a few hundred metres from the station.

His observations focus on aerosols - particles suspended in the atmosphere, which influence the amount of radiation the surface of the Earth receives as well as the formation of clouds. The data he collects are used to model how aerosols affect solar radiation in Antarctica, and from this, contribute to a better understanding of climate change in Antarctica and on Earth as a whole. The programme involves long-term observations, of at least five or ten years, if not more.

Alexander does everything he can to make sure the instruments are able to function year round in the harsh climate and low temperatures. He must especially make sure the instruments can withstand being left alone over the long polar winter. Several times a day, you see him wearing his characteristic hat, his green jacket, and his large boots to head out to “his” shelter, climb up on the roof of the station, or head out to the weather station on the glacier.

“I am used to work with my bare hands on the instruments in the cold (the doctor is not very happy about that habit of mine)”

A true team player and a family man

Alexander is always smiling, in spite of the instruments not always functioning the way he would like them to, and in spite of the paucity of particles in the air in Antarctica. He speaks German, French, English, and Dutch with has charming German accent. He's the most assiduous of everyone when it comes to cleaning up or clearing the table after the evening meal. He's perfectly integrated into the team, and visibly happy at the Princess Elisabeth station.

He also is the father of two children, with whom he speaks regularly on Skype. Don’t tell anyone but, on our way back from Antarctica, I saw him in Cape Town doing some Christmas shopping …

Author: Jacques Richon

Picture: Alexander Mangold servicing his instruments on the roof - © International Polar Foundation / Alain Hubert

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