Scientific observatories

An Automatic Weather Station at Casey
An Automatic Weather Station at Casey (Photo: Tod Iolovski)

An integral part of the Australian Antarctic Science Program are the essential monitoring activities carried out at our stations and throughout the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT). These monitoring activities underpin many areas of our research, and are conducted by the Bureau of Meteorology, Ionospheric Prediction Service Radio and Space Services (IPS), Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and Geoscience Australia.

Some observatories in Antarctica have operated continuously for more than 50 years and they continue to make an important contribution in monitoring of the Antarctic and global physical environments.


Weather observations are undertaken by the Bureau of Meteorology at all Australian stations and data are also collected from a number of automatic weather stations located throughout the AAT and from the Australian research and resupply ships operating in the Southern Ocean.

Seismic monitoring

Australian seismological stations at Macquarie Island and Casey form part of the global seismograph network that monitors earthquakes world-wide. The information they provide supports tsunami warning systems, including the Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, and studies of continental plate motions. The stations are operated jointly by Geoscience Australia and the United States Geological Survey.

Nuclear monitoring

Stations in Antarctica, including the seismological station at Mawson, contribute to the global monitoring of nuclear tests. These stations are listed as part of the International Monitoring System of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which Australia has signed and ratified. Australia’s obligations under the treaty include the establishment, operation, maintenance and upgrade of these Antarctic stations, and the provision of uninterrupted data. Construction of an infrasound array at Davis is expected to begin in the 2012–13 summer.


Geodesy provides the fundamental reference frame that allows accurate location on the earth’s surface by GPS. The Australian geodetic program, including its field work and computations carried out in Antarctica, contributes to the development of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, within which all positioning activities in Antarctica are undertaken. The geodetic program supports, directly or indirectly, navigation of aircraft and ships, and the monitoring of the atmosphere, oceans and coastal zones. The geodetic infrastructure in Antarctica is also used as a reference and calibration for Australian and international research programs that use geodetic and satellite-derived gravity data to study ice mass balance in Antarctica, such as project POLENET, undertaken in the International Polar Year.

Geomagnetic monitoring

Australia’s three geomagnetic observatories in Antarctica — at Macquarie Island (established in 1952), Mawson (1955) and Casey (1999) — monitor the earth’s continuously changing magnetic field and form part of wider Australian and international observatory networks. The data and information provided by geomagnetic observatories are required by international treaties to support maritime and aviation navigation and by airborne geophysical surveys to study the nature of the Antarctic continent below the ice cover. Other applications include magnetic direction-finding, magnetic detection, and the mitigation of geomagnetic hazards. These data also contribute to research into the nature of geomagnetic phenomena (particularly in auroral zones), earth structures and processes, and solar-terrestrial physics. Geomagnetic data from Australian observatories in Antarctica are provided to the IPS Radio and Space Services for space weather forecasting and research.

Data from our Antarctic geomagnetic observatories and other Antarctic data obtained in conjunction with university-based researchers, contribute to global research in this field, such as the international program INTERMAGNET, to develop global models of the planetary magnetic field. Here are some examples of the geomagnetic data being gathered at Davis station.