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The Antarctic Meteorological Research Center: 1997

CHARLES R. STEARNS and JOHN T. YOUNG, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706

The Antarctic Meteorological Research Center (AMRC) was founded in 1992 at the University of Wisconsin Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC). The first stages of the AMRC are described by Stearns and Young (1993, 1994). The goals of the AMRC are

Many of the data requests are from people and organizations in other disciplines, such as glaciology.

The Antarctic Meteorological Research Center has two centers: one located at the SSEC and designated as UWAMRC and the second located at the Crary Laboratory, McMurdo, Antarctica, and designated as MCMAMRC. Figure 1 shows the AMRC hardware configuration for 1997 and 1998 at McMurdo, Antarctica, and Madison, Wisconsin. The Terascan system at McMurdo Meteorology Office collects all the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) polar-orbiting satellites. The AMRC collects the data from the Terascan system and stores the data on tape for shipment to the UWAMRC for archiving and distribution to others. The NOAA High Resolution Picture Transmission (HRPT) data can be transferred to the UWAMRC in real time, but this practice is not desirable as a rule because the large data volume would clog the Internet link.

The AMRC data flow for 1997 and 1998 is shown in figure 2. Data from four geostationary satellites and two NOAA polar-orbiting satellites are collected at the SSEC of the University of Wisconsin. The satellite data cover the entire Earth and allow the construction of infrared images every 3 hours over Antarctica. In addition, water vapor winds constructed from the satellite data received from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are transmitted twice daily to the McMurdo Meteorology Office. The water vapor winds cover the flight path from Christchurch, New Zealand, to 70S on the way to McMurdo, Antarctica, and the altitude region where the aircraft fly.

The AMRC provides support for forecasting at McMurdo, Antarctica, by sending the 3-hourly composite infrared images of Antarctica, the Global Gridded Analysis and Forecasts for the Southern Hemisphere from the United States National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), water vapor winds between Christchurch, New Zealand, and McMurdo, and synoptic and upper air reports to the McMurdo Meteorology Office. These data can be overlaid on the NOAA satellite passes and the antarctic composite infrared images. The Global Area Coverage (GAC) infrared NOAA HRPT data returned from Antarctica by the NOAA series of polar-orbiting satellites are archived at the UWAMRC. The archive backs up the collection of NOAA HRPT data at McMurdo and can be used to provide data to McMurdo in case of the failure to obtain the Local Area Coverage (LAC) NOAA HRPT data at McMurdo. The GAC infrared data have a resolution of 4 kilometers and a time delay of 2-3 hours compared to the real time LAC HRPT data collected at McMurdo. During the 1996-1997 field season, GAC data were sent to the AMRC at McMurdo so that Robert Holmes could make forecasts for a flight across the continent. The landing site was not covered by the satellite data received at the McMurdo Meteorology Office.

In addition to forecasts from McMurdo, daily forecasts are issued to the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer using meteorological information available in near real time from the UWAMRC. The forecasts are a side benefit of an ongoing investigation into the atmospheric circulation around Antarctica. The impetus for making the forecasts is that the Nathaniel B. Palmer encountered extreme weather without warning causing some damage. The observations of these extreme events by the Palmer provide additional information on the structure of small-scale features, information that would be difficult to obtain otherwise. Although these events can be dangerous for a ship and its personnel, they also can affect research activities on the continent and/or flight conditions at McMurdo and outlying camps.

The table shows the data transfers from the UWAMRC for each of the last 2 years. The data transfers from the University of Wisconsin antarctic automatic weather station (UWAAWS) are primarily 3-hourly, 10-minute, and monthly summary data from the AWS sites, radiosonde, AGO, and snow temperature data. The data transfers from the UWAMRC are the composite infrared images, ship observations, and radiosonde soundings. The UWAMRC Web site contains the composite infrared images, latest AWS data, the medium-range forecast loop, antarctic synoptic data, and more. Additional data requests are sent out on 8-millimeter tape and amount to about 1 gigabyte per year. The AVHRR requests for the Man-computer Interactive Data Access System (McIDAS) areas are down, but the GIF requests are up, cutting the data transfers by a factor of 10. The 4 gigabytes transferred during 1996 were primarily one request for AVHRR McIDAS areas. Automatic transfers to UNIDATA (400 gigabytes/year), McMurdo Meteorology Office, special requests, and the GOPHER server for SSEC are not included in the table.

The antarctic meteorological community of the United States and other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Argentina, Belgium, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, and Poland, are regular collectors of data from the UWAMRC. An increasing number of requests for meteorological data come from people and organizations in astronomy, biology, human health, geology, glaciology, oceanography, physics, and zoology.

The Antarctic Meteorological Research Center is supported by the National Science Foundation grant OPP 95-27603


Stearns, C.R., and J.T. Young. 1993. Antarctic meteorological research center: 1992-1993. Antarctic Journal of the U.S. , 28(5), 335-336.

Stearns, C.R., and J.T. Young. 1994. Antarctic Meteorological Research Center: 1993. Antarctic Journal of the U.S. , 29(5), 288-289.