Live atmospheric data

Image of Noctilucent Cloud over Davis Station captured using LIDAR
Noctilucent Cloud seen at 83km on 3 - 4 January 2009 (Photo: Andrew C.Simon A)

The global reach of climate change and ozone depletion has pushed our search for knowledge of the atmosphere beyond our local environment. And as we learn more about the processes that make weather and climate, the frontiers of our investigations extend wider and higher: even to the edge of space above Antarctica.

Observations made from Davis are at the forefront of these investigations. Every few minutes, new measurements of the atmosphere between 70 and 100 km above the station are made. But why and how would we measure atmospheric characteristics in such a remote part of our atmosphere?

Why?

Our incomplete knowledge of the atmosphere, particularly at these heights, could tell us why: if we don't fully understand it we can't predict our impact on it. But weather forecasts provide a more immediate rationale. Researchers have recently found that the quality of daily weather forecasts improves if their computer programs include atmospheric processes that occur up to 100 km or more in altitude. This has heightened interest in the processes affecting the atmosphere at these heights.

How?

In regions as remote as the atmosphere above Antarctica, it is very difficult to measure wind and temperature directly. However, remote sensing technology, in particular, atmospheric radar, has provided us with the tools needed to make measurements. At some radio frequencies, there are 'scatterers' at the heights we are interested in that reflect not only radio pulses, but atmospheric information back to the earth's surface. Some of these are due to meteors, some are due to turbulence and some are due to temperature induced changes in the atmosphere's radio characteristics.

This page was last modified on 3 January 2007.