While you might think that the cold temperature and snow would make Antarctica a place where fire isn’t a problem, the atmospheric conditions there are actually ideal for fire. Most of Antarctica is actually a desert, with very low humidity. That means that, despite the ice and snow, the air is very dry.
So why all the snow? Its simple: because of the low temperature, the little bit of rain that does fall turns to snow and ice. And because that temperature stays low, that snow and ice never goes away, except for on the outskirts of the station.
Because of the fire risk, stations are usually made from materials that don’t readily burn.
Millions of dollars of material was lost in the fire, so it’s not surprising that the two men who were lost stayed inside the station in an attempt to fight the fire. That doesn’t make it any less of a tragedy, however.
The Brazilian government plans on rebuilding the station, but that will take 2 years. Until the station is repaired, Brazilian scientists will need to use the facilities of other Antarctic research facilities. For now, though, the remaining staff have been moved back to Brazil.
The scientists at Comandante Ferraz were studying the disruption of coastal Antarctic ecosystems in the presence of global warming. The coast of Antarctica is especially sensitive to global warming, as it disrupts the cycle of freezing and melting common there.
NewScientist Photo by : US Embassy