Meteorological musings of a weather balloon technician

Exploring the magic of the Antarctic seasons

One of the most fascinating aspects of life on the ‘continent’ is found in experiencing the seasonal variations, driven by the sun’s advance and retreat during the Antarctic year.

As one of the Bureau of Meteorology’s three wintering staff at Davis, I’m often in the hot seat when it comes to observing and recording the meteorological data that forms the basis of long-term climate trends and short-term forecasting models.

To put it succinctly; Jen, Damo and I stare at clouds more than most. For me, it’s a great match as I often aim to capture these elements in my photographic pursuits.

For some perspective, we arrived almost eight months ago to weeks of pleasant, cloudless, night-less summer days. These presented opportunities for all on station to enjoy countless hiking adventures through the dusty Vestfold Hills. Boot soles wore out and jolly-kings were crowned (Damo).

Yet change, they say, is as good as a holiday and when the first stars we’d seen in months appeared sometime in mid-February, the sense of renewed excitement around station was palpable. At about this time the mercury steadily began falling, snow showers began to settle, and the sharp contrast of blue, summer skies gave way to pastel shades of pink and orange.

Our pure white respite from brown rock and sand quickly soured as we learned the rules of the zero-sum game in play. The fairy tale scenery, while easy on the eyes, stymied initially positive sea-ice growth, costing us the coveted freedom of early-season sea-ice travel! Nightly auroras - all too commonly obscured by stratocumulus cloud - and the first ‘official’ blizzard of the season heralded the arrival of the long winter months as April turned to May.

Now, with less than two weeks before the Midwinter celebrations, I’m sure many among us are eagerly awaiting the other side of July, when the sun regains its hold on our north horizon, bringing with it new avenues for exploration and adventure throughout the nearby fjords and Vestfold hills.

P James – Met Tech/OIC