Automatic weather stations

Long metal mast with metals stays in laid out across saw horses in the snow during assembly.
Assembling the automatic weather station (AWS) (Photo: W. Girdlestone)
Expeditioner kneels to inspect the AWS with aircraft in the background.AWS surrounded by snow

Automatic weather stations (AWS) measure meteorological data from remote regions of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Running on solar power are up to 14 sensors and a satellite transmitter. New technology means very low current consumption – which means a smaller battery, a smaller solar panel, all making a lighter and more aerodynamic unit.

Once put in place weather stations are rarely visited, if ever. This means they need to be extremely reliable.

Stations read weather information and send the data via satellite.

Automatic weather stations help us:

  • create a climatic record
  • understand global climate change
  • forecast the weather - in support of helicopter and light aircraft operations.

Both above and below the surface of the snow they measure:

  • air temperature
  • atmospheric pressure
  • atmospheric humidity
  • wind run
  • wind direction
  • solar radiation
  • snow accumulation.

Weather stations have some of the same sensors at different heights. This allows us to measure microclimate in that region.

Above the snow sensors appear at 1 m, 2 m and 4 m, while below the snow they appear at 0.1 m, 1 m, 3 m and 10 m.

Temperature at sub-surface 10 m does not vary on an annual basis and represents the mean annual temperature for that site. (This is the light blue line on the temperature profile.)

The Australian Antarctic Division has been deploying Automatic Weather Stations in remote Antarctic sites since October 1984.

This generation of weather stations are developed as a joint venture between the Australian Antarctic Division and local Tasmanian company, Climetrics.

Dome Argus AWS – daily weather

New technology and design philosophies are making it possible to measure temperature at what is believed to be the coldest place on earth – Dome Argus (Dome A). The station deployed at Dome A was tested down to -90°C, which is outside the specifications of -55°C set by the component manufacturers. The daily temperature data from the Dome A station is a joint initiative between the Australian Antarctic Division and the Chinese National Antarctic Research Expeditions.

This page was last modified on 19 July 2005.