Better tools for better forecasting

Access to high resolution satellite imagery and a wealth of information from increasingly sophisticated atmospheric numerical models have brought a significant improvement to our understanding of Antarctic meteorology over the past 10 years. However, communications limitations at Antarctic stations have required some novel solutions.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology routinely provides summer time meteorological support for operations out of Davis Station. Forecasting services cover station forecasts for both local and remote locations, support for shipping operations through Prydz Bay and aviation forecasting support for helicopter operations between Davis, Mawson and the Prince Charles Mountains.

Davis meteorologists have very restricted access to imagery and modelling datasets because they must share the station’s low communication bandwidth with other users. The amount of meteorological data currently accessible to the Australian forecaster on a routine basis would simply swamp Antarctic stations’ ANARESAT links, so until better bandwidth if available some innovative thinking is called for:

  • While numerical model data is not sent to the station, the forecaster can interrogate it through the web and acquire snapshot images fairly quickly. The above figure shows a +24 hour numerical model forecast of infrared cloud cover signature over the Mawson-Davis area. A low pressure system is clearly evident to the northwest of Mawson, as is low cloud pushing into the Lambert Basin and Prince Charles Mountains region.
  • Being tested over the coming summer season is a system allowing email interrogation of the numerical model data to return terminal area and route forecasts for locations to be visited by helicopters.

Neil Adams
Australian Bureau of Meteorology