J7.3 An Exceptional Summer during the South Pole Race of 1911-1912

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 4:30 PM
Conference Center: Skagit 3 (Washington State Convention Center )
Ryan L. Fogt, Ohio Univ., Athens, OH; and M. E. Jones

The austral summer of 1911-1912 was the year of the dramatic race to the geographic South Pole by Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott. Amundsen achieved the Pole in December 1911, and Scott arrived nearly a month later only to find he was beaten by the Norwegian team. Unfortunately, Scott and his four companions perished on their return journey, leaving this story with a tragic ending. While many factors played a role in the failure of the British expedition to the South Pole, weather was likely one of them. The meteorological conditions are examined using a combination of observations collected during the expeditions as well as reanalysis and reconstructed pressure datasets.  It is found that during the austral summer, pressures were exceptionally high at both main bases and along the sledging journey, especially in December 1911; many records were set when compared to observations and reanalysis data at the bases and along the tracks taken by both polar parties.  In conjunction with the anomalously high pressures, temperatures were often above average in December 1911, especially for Amundsen, who experienced likely record temperature anomalies in excess of 10°C on the polar plateau.  For Scott, similarly high temperatures were observed in early February 1912, at the top of the Beardmore Glacier.  When compared to the anomalously cold temperatures experienced by the Scott polar party in late February and early March of 1912, the temperature change is unprecedented in the >35 years of reanalysis data.  This suggests that the dramatic change Scott and his companions faced when exiting the exceptional summer of 1911/12 may have contributed to their deaths.
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