The year in summary on the weather front along with a run down on the annual clean out of our fuel tanks before they are refilled are in the news this week

The highs and lows of Mawson weather in 2013

Luc De Pauw is part of the meteorology team at Mawson. This week Luc has provided Mawson’s ‘Year in numbers’ or the yearly weather summary for 2013.


To create a comprehensive list of data and facts about the weather at Mawson for the calendar year 2013.


Wind run definition = the measure of the total distance of the travelled wind during a period of 24 hours.

Conclusion 2013 was windy. The average wind run per day was 8.3% above the long term mean. A total wind run of 382,700km results in an average wind speed of 43.7 kph during every hour of the year!

Record broken: Highest wind run measured for the month January = 36606km during. (Previous record was set at 35278km for the month of January)


Conclusion: Air pressure was pretty much the same as the long term mean pressure.

No air pressure records broken during the year.


Conclusion: During the year we had nearly 20% less hours of sunshine compared to the long term mean.
Due to the geographic location the sun didn’t rise from 14 June 2013 till 29 June 2013 and didn’t set from 30 November 2013 till 13 January 2014. Although the sun did not set through this period the plateau did shade the station for a few hours each night.

Even though the sun didn’t set, its intensity when less than 5 degrees above the horizon is too weak to register on the sunshine recorder, hence the maximum amount of sunshine for any day during the year stands at 17.2 hours instead of the theoretically 24 hours.

No sunshine records broken during the year.



Blowing Snow — Visibility reduced to less than 1km due to blowing snow.

Strong Wind — A Strong Wind day has wind in excess of 41km/h

Gale — A Gale is wind in excess of 63km/h.

Blizzard — When all the following conditions exist, it is termed a blizzard:

  • Blowing snow
  • Gale force winds (34 knots or more) and persisting for at least one hour
  • Air temperature less than 0°C
  • Visibility 100 metres or less

Note: Only the wind has time-based criteria and all weather elements MUST be observed “at time of observation”.


From our figures we can conclude 2013 was slightly warmer than the long term mean. Both Mean Daily Max and Mean daily Min are 0.4°C above the long term mean. No temperature records were broken during the year. The year 2013 was about average in pressure, slightly warmer in temperature, 10% windier and 20% less sunny compared to the long term mean. We had many more days of Snow, days of Strong wind and Gale force winds compared to the long term mean. We also had three more days of blizzards.

Cleaning out the fuel tanks, somebody has to do it!

As part of the yearly maintenance for the plumbers, it is our duty to ensure that at least five 90 000 litre fuel tanks are cleaned here on station. In the past this job has been known to be plagued with problems as new laws and procedures are introduced or equipment does not meet the standards. However this year Pete Layt (our Building Site Supervisor) in conjunction with Kingston and many others, has ensured everything was in order to complete our quota.

In a classic example of working together to achieve a result we enlisted the help of the diesel fitters to operate the crane, capture fuel and sludge and change valves/plugs. The electrician was on hand to disconnect the high level switches, isolate equipment and provide temporary power for equipment. That left the plumbers; one inside the tank, one as a spotter on top and the other as the coordinator of the whole operation.

The job is simple despite the mountains of paperwork. Lift the lids off, ventilate, set up the swing arm/rescue device, drop a ladder down, do the confined space gas recordings and continually monitor while the cleaner goes down with a breathing apparatus and brooms the sludge out, valves and plugs are serviced.

Once dressed up, I could have easily been mistaken for Neil Armstrong when he first walked on the moon. With disposable overalls on, gumboots, rescue tank behind, breathing apparatus mask, air line attached and harness I looked very much the part. This job felt like “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”… after all we are in Antarctica.