Page 1592
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

Antarctic Operational Meteorology



The Past

The Present

The Future




Contact us
The Future

The future development of operational meteorology in Antarctica as elsewhere is closely linked to the rapid evolution of new and increasingly reliable observations and communication technology. This is particularly so having regard to the costs of deploying people in Antarctica and the demand by governments for cost savings by all their agencies. As part of this world-wide tendency it is apparent that there will be an inevitable move towards more automated observations at remote locations. It is notable that the number of staffed stations in Antarctica providing upper air observations has not been expanded by the international community despite the requirement for such observations particularly in the Pacific sector of West Antarctica. Further, the number of stations providing two upper air soundings per day is now quite small—Australia is one of only a few countries performing a full twice-daily program. Along with the decline of staffed stations has however come the establishment of more AWS and drifting buoys and it now seems quite likely that few, if any, major new staffed stations will be established for meteorological (or other) purposes by the nations having Antarctic programs. A possible exception may exist where stations have been, and may in future be set up for essentially political purposes though with ostensible scientific programs such as the plethora of stations on King George Island in the South Shetlands. Such stations are of fairly minimal value for meteorological (and possibly other scientific) purposes having regard to their close proximity to each other while vast areas of the continent have few observation points. At a recent Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) WMO suggested to the national representatives of countries having small Antarctic program capacity that a relatively low cost national activity of considerable potential value to science would be for them to purchase and sponsor a "national" Antarctic buoy which could be deployed on their behalf by one of the better resourced Antarctic national programs.

Up until very recently stations carrying out radiosonde observations required substantial staffing; however this too is changing with the development of such equipment as the "Autosonde" which has the capability of providing pre-programmed balloon soundings for specific times, calculating the data and transmitting the information directly to the outside world. Such systems require fewer and less specialised staff. However, like all such new technology they need maintenance and are not a total solution to maintaining low cost observational programs. Nevertheless, the move towards increasingly automated observations and the design of better and more reliable systems to achieve this is well established and unlikely to be reversed. Thus, in the future it appears that there will be more surface observations from more AWS observation sites and probably more buoys (including those deployed within the sea-ice zone) but that there will be little, if any, increase in the number of upper air soundings which will themselves become increasingly automated.

The evolution of new satellite sounding techniques eg the satellite measurement of surface pressure, the improved measurement of vertical temperature profiles and wind vectors derived from cloud movement as well as new sensors to provide information on sea state and sea ice characteristics and sea surface winds will become available directly to meteorological analysis centres in Antarctica as well as to those at lower latitudes.

Accompanying these developments will be a decline in the requirement for the traditional meteorological observers who are likely in Antarctica as elsewhere, to be progressively replaced by staff who are technically qualified and trained to maintain the range of more sophisticated and specific equipment that would be deployed. While this in some respects is to be regretted it has to be seen as an evolution towards a more modern system, and but one facet of the increasing complexity of human activity and reliance upon computer based machines.

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

Streten, N. A. 1997 'Antarctic Operational Meteorology,' ANARE Jubilee Science Symposium (in press).

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher