Meteorological technicians in Antarctica

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This week at Casey: 22 February 2013

The Bureau of Meteorology technicians (met techs) in Antarctica - what do others perceive they do?

The variation and diversity of work is the one thing that makes the job interesting and challenging. I guess the observing work in itself is challenging as it's not normally undertaken by met techs in Australia. The diversity of equipment and its ongoing repair and maintenance is always changing. Not only the Bureau's equipment, but there is Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD’s) equipment used in the aviation program plus other government agencies' equipment, such as that belonging to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). What all this means is, there is a never a dull moment. Met techs can be fixing the hydrogen generation equipment (produces gas to inflate large sonde balloons) then the next day working in the great outdoors fixing an Automatic Weather Station (AWS).

Most people may commute for an hour or less to work in Australia. Try driving out to service an AWS in snow and low visibility for hours, in a vehicle determined to give you a full body massage as it ‘negotiates’ sastrugi, wind-sculpted snow. On arrival you are greeted by crisp, mind numbing temperatures. Even in summer, wind chill temperatures can get down to around -20°C. Pulling out the laptop to communicate with the AWS, you find the protective gloves produce multiple keystroke errors. The screen is unreadable due to the glare from the surrounding snow and your polarised glasses. If the sun is out, all you see is yourself on the screen. Then your laptop gets affected by the cold - the batteries pack it in. Not a problem, you brought the generator. Ever tried starting a Genset out there? The only thing that gets powered up is you as you repeatedly pull the cord and talk to it nicely.

Leon is the Casey met tech in 2013 and recently I shared a similar work day with him.

Expeditioner leans over laptop in snow underneath a weather tower (AWS)
Leon, at the end of long mains lead, fighting a laptop at…
(Photo: Adrian Porter)
Adrian and Leon working on Wilkins Automatic Weather Station
Adrian and Leon working on Wilkins Automatic Weather Station
(Photo: Abrar Shabren)
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