J2.4 25 Years of Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations

Tuesday, 21 June 2005: 2:15 PM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Charles R. Stearns, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and G. A. Weidner, J. E. Thom, M. A. Lazzara, and S. L. Knuth

In 1979, the Radio Science Laboratory at Stanford University developed and deployed the first Automatic Weather Station (AWS) units in Antarctica under the direction of Professor Alan Peterson. Beginning in 1980, the University of Wisconsin acquired direction of this project and has built, installed, and maintained the network of AWS units in the Antarctic as a part of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), funded by of the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs. The development of low power computer components in the 1970s and the ARGOS DCS on the NOAA series of polar-orbiting satellites has made possible the development of low-power AWS units capable of operating in the extreme climate of Antarctica. These components allow for longer operational use between visitations of the sites. Over the last 25 years, several versions of the stations have been built and installed, each with improved capability. Most units measure temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, wind speed and direction. Some units include other sensors such as temperature at the top and bottom of the tower, temperature profiles into the snow up to ten meters, and water temperature, to name a few. The observations and data collected from the network have been applied to a variety of meteorological problems including but not limited to, katabatic and barrier wind studies, mesoscale circulation and sensible/latent heat flux studies, operational weather forecasting, station climatology, micrometeorology research, long term ecological research studies, and fog studies. Today, the network has reached its largest extent with over 55 stations installed and operating. New uses of the stations continue to be explored, such as the monitoring of weather and position of icebergs and precipitation/accumulation studies. This history and impact of the Wisconsin AWS project, along with some lessons learned, will be presented. Additionally, collaborative efforts and other Antarctic Automatic Weather Station programs and projects will be discussed.
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