By Hugues Goosse
We hope that the previous post has convinced you of the interest of studying Antarctica. However, going there is expensive, time consuming and poses huge logistics problems. Does it really worth the money and the efforts while we have now a large amount of satellite data and numerical models that provide us with a more a more detailed picture of the whole continent?
Unfortunately, satellites cannot observe all the variables. They are able to detect some signals from the surface but cannot estimate subsurface changes or the composition of the snow. Furthermore, satellite sensors can be influenced by many factors. It is thus necessary to compare their observations with the ground truth to calibrate the measurements.
Before being able to model a process, you need to understand it and this requires precise observations. The field measurements are also essential to validate the models, identify their biases and finally propose improvements.
Many scientists working on Antarctica go there rarely. Analyzing the observations obtained in a campaign can take years to a team. Some of us having a more theoretical approach and modelers can base their analyses on existing data bases, without an urgent need to go on the field even though that is clearly the best way to apprehend the situation.
Nevertheless, all the science performed on Antarctica ultimately have its ground in field campaigns. Observations are the only way to confirm a hypothesis and to grasp the complexity of the processes. They also open new doors for future investigations.