FAQs on station webcams
Why do you have webcams?
The webcams have been installed primarily as an operational device to assist us in our work.
At times, they may be directed towards a particular location, such as a station building, or towards operational activities such as construction work or shipping operations. At the same time, the webcams happen to be useful to record weather pictures, which we publish on our web pages for general interest.
Are the webcams live?
At this time, we are unable to provide a live video feed due to the excessive bandwidth required. Internet at our stations is limited and bandwidth is prioritised so that communications, science and operational needs are met first. As a result, we offer a series of still images sent from the stations to AAD Head Office in Kingston every five minutes. These images are put together automatically to create a time-lapse video.
As Antarctica is such a remote place with unpredictable weather, sometimes the webcams can be damaged causing technical glitches, delays or interrupted feeds. They also intermittently undergo repairs and cleaning.
The webcams are not an essential service, but something we are able to provide to the public as a matter of interest.
Why are some of the images fuzzy?
Some webcams are mounted on a small metal post, which vibrates in the wind. The camera operates by scanning in lines. When it is windy, in the time taken between scanning lines, the position of the camera has shifted slightly due to vibration. This movement causes a blurring of the image.
Why does the webcam skip some images?
Black or very dark frames are omitted from the transmission automatically. During times of low visibility caused by blizzards or natural darkness, light may not be visible to the camera. However, if there is any reasonable light source the camera will take a picture. This helps ease station bandwidth pressures, and also cuts down on wasted frames. Images can also be missed due to camera repair or cleaning, bad weather conditions or interruption in internet services - circumstances of remote communication.
Why does a black circle sometimes appear over the centre of the sun?
On occasion, a black circle or other irregular shape may appear in front of the sun in the webcam images. Digital web cameras have image sensors that convert light to an electronic signal. The centre of the sun is very bright, and can overwhelm the sensor. When this happens, the camera software blackens out the area to protect the longevity of the sensor, and displays black pixels in the area.
What is the black or white line that sometimes appears in the photos?
A black line could be one of the guy wires of the tower on which a camera is mounted. In certain light conditions, reflections occur on the dome housing the camera, which can appear as a white line.
How can you tell if the white light in the sky is the moon?
If the light is relatively large and is moving across the sky, it is the moon. Otherwise, it is a fixed object and more often than not, a reflection from one of the station lights.
Do the weather servers accurately record the weather extremes?
At present the 'weather servers' don't necessarily record the most accurate information about weather extremes.
Every five minutes a program runs at AAD Head Office in Kingston that gets the latest image from station webcams, and also asks the 'weather server' on station how windy and cold it is, at the minute the image is retrieved.
The time/date and weather information is stamped on the image and it's published on the internet. If it gets really windy at 2:08 pm one day, for example, then the images at 2:05 pm and 2:10 pm will fail to record this.
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