Australia and China are cooperating in a project to install automatic weather stations in Antarctica.

One of the stations will be installed at what is believed to be the coldest place on Earth — Dome A — where the temperature plummets to around minus 90 degrees Celsius located around 1200km inland from Australia’s Davis station on the coast.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), in partnership with Tasmanian company, Climetrics Pty Ltd, has just completed a major redesign of its automatic weather stations.

The AAD’s Glaciology Program Leader Dr Ian Allison said that there would be short and long term benefits from the new station.

“Dome A has been a blank spot in our data gathering until now. The installation of an automatic weather station will give us immediate access to climate information not previously available.

“In the longer term, it will contribute to the broader climate system picture.”

Dr Allison and the Science Technical Support Manager Jonathan Reeve will train the Chinese expeditioners at Fremantle in Western Australia from where their ship, Xue Long, will sail this evening.

Dr Allison said that the Australian Antarctic Division has been making and installing automatic weather stations in Antarctica for many years, with 19 operating there at present.

The oldest, on the Antarctic plateau, is still sending back data via satellite 20 years after its installation despite being unattended during that time from a site where the temperature drops to a comparatively balmy minus 70 degrees Celsius.

It is located inland from Australia’s Casey station at an altitude over 4000m. By comparison Australia’s tallest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, reaches just 2228m.

“The original automatic weather station has served its purpose well although it is now completely buried by snow but until its battery goes flat, its barometer and sub-surface temperature sensors will continue to send back data used by glaciologists, climatologists and meteorologists in Australia and around the world.”

Dr Allison said that the new automatic weather station would be up and running at Dome A by the end of January.

“The information we receive will go a long way to filling in some of the gaps from that part of Antarctica,” Dr Allison said.