The International Antarctic Weather Forecasting Handbook


The highly successful International Geophysical Year of 1957–58 gave rise to the formulation of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 and its ratification in 1961. The Treaty was given considerable impetus for the investigation of major scientific problems in Antarctica and encouraged cooperation between nations. The Antarctic Treaty is unique in the field of international relations in that it guarantees freedom of scientific research and exchange of data.

The Antarctic continent and its surrounding Southern Ocean, south of the Antarctic convergence, are probably the least known regions of the world. There are 44 stations operated by 18 Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) nations. Technology has developed at such a rapid pace that a new standard of meteorological services in Antarctica can be specified. Representation of Antarctica in global numerical weather prediction models has improved; remote sensing of atmospheric variables and sea ice from polar orbiting satellites has become more sophisticated.

Weather forecasting is one of those rare activities that unite nations in a common endeavour from which people worldwide benefit daily. Most of the SCAR stations provide routine coded surface synoptic weather reports to the Global Telecommunications System operated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In addition, there are in the order of 70 or so automatic weather stations separate from the staffed stations that provide extensions to the surface weather–reporting network. Fourteen of the staffed stations are also providing upper–air soundings of meteorological variables with vertical profiles from the surface to altitudes of frequently around 25 km and occasionally 35 km (the lower stratosphere). Through weather satellites and the combined efforts of nations, we can track the forces that control our weather and forecast their behaviour up to a week or more ahead.

Despite the hostile conditions and the problem of logistics, the Antarctic Basic Synoptic Network is well implemented. The percentage of Antarctic reports received at the main centres of WMO’s telecommunication network is close to the global average. Weather observations reported in real time are archived in the climate database. Most of the staffed surface observation stations in Antarctica are included in the upper–air and surface networks of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). They provide a significant contribution to GCOS data sets.

Substantial meteorological activity is required to support human operations in the Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. The surface weather observing and upper–air–sounding networks organized by WMO are examples of scientific work of practical and economic importance. The consequential historical data bank is fundamental to our understanding of contemporary processes of global relevance such as ozone depletion, atmospheric pollution, climate change, melting of ice shelves and glaciers, sea level rise, all require Antarctic data to ensure true global perspective.

This handbook looks at Antarctic weather from the perspective of one of the most challenging sciences as well as the application of meteorology in providing operational weather services in Antarctica to support national Antarctic research programs. It should provide a valuable reference book for operational meteorologists and students of atmospheric science. If subject to continuous review and improvement, it could be long lived. The main contributions of in kind support came from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and British Antarctic Survey. However, the great scope and substance of the publication depends on the quality of input material from 15 nations. The contents clearly indicate that wholehearted effort went into gaining the knowledge in the first place and then synthesizing it into a clear account. The meteorological expertise and English expression of the editors John Turner (British Antarctic Survey) and Steve Pendlebury (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) were vital to its success. Acknowledgment is made of the national contributions that were arranged through the national representatives who are Members of the WMO Executive Council Working Group on Antarctic Meteorology. Dr John Zillman, Director of Meteorology, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and President of WMO, encouraged participation in the development of this quality publication, which makes is a significant contribution to our understanding of Antarctic Meteorology.

Hugh A. Hutchinson

Chairman, Working Group on Antarctic Meteorology

WMO Executive Council (1997–2003)


The contributors and editors have made all reasonable endeavours to ensure that the information and material provided is accurate. The publication is, however, intended as a guide only. The science of forecasting is by its nature imprecise. No warranty of accuracy or reliability as to such material or information is accordingly implied or given by this publication. The user utilises it at his/her own risk, and no responsibility for loss arising in any way from or in connection with errors or omissions in any information or material provided, (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence), is accepted by the contributors, editors or any person or organisation endorsing the publication or any of their agents or employees.


There have been many contributors to this handbook: needless to say, without these contributions the handbook would not exist in the comprehensive form that it has taken. The editors wish to thank all who contributed directly or indirectly, and in summarising the known contributions below, hope that any person who was been inadvertently missed from the acknowledgments will accept the editors' apologies.

In particular, we would like to thank the sponsors of this volume, the British Antarctic Survey, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, the World Meteorological Organisation, the International Commission on Polar Meteorology, the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for their support throughout the preparation of the handbook. Members of these organisations provided much useful input during the writing phase, provided contacts throughout the Antarctic forecasting community and gave us valuable feedback on early drafts of the volume. The countries from which contributions have been received are:

·                         Argentina (Arg);

·                         Australia (Aus);

·                         Belgium (Bel);

·                         China (PRC);

·                         Chile (Chi)

·                         France (Fra);

·                         Germany (Ger);

·                         India (Ind);

·                         Italy (Ita);

·                         Japan (Jap);

·                         Russia (Rus);

·                         South Africa (SA);

·                         Ukraine (Ukr);

·                         United Kingdom (UK);

·                         United States of America (USA).

Appendix 5 ("Detailed list of contributors") lists the sections to which the various contributions were made by the following people: N. Adams (Aus); I. Barnes–Keoghan (Aus); V. Belyazo (Rus); L. (Lingen) Bian (PRC); R. Brauner (Ger); J. Brimelow (UK); de Broy Brooks (SA); W. Budd (Aus); J. Callaghan (Aus); J. Carrasco (Chi); A. Cayette (USA); B. Clavier (Fra); S. Colwell (UK); F. Coppola (Ita); L. Cowled (Aus); M. De Keyser (Bel); J. Evans (UK); S. Harangozo (UK); T. Hart (Aus); E. Haywood (Aus); I. Hunter (SA); H. Hutchinson (Aus); K. Jacka (Aus); R. Jardine (Aus); M. Jones (Aus); G. König–Langlo (Ger); A. Korotkov (Rus); S. Krakovaskaja (Ukr); J. Kramer (USA); A. Kuznetsov (Rus); T. Lachlan–Cope (UK); V. Lagun (Rus); Lakshmanaswamy (Ind); M. Lazzara (USA); R. Leighton (Aus); E. Loutsenko (Rus); R. Massom (Aus); G. Mills (Aus); M. Moyher (USA); J. Nairn (Aus); S. Pendlebury (Aus); P. Pettré (Fra); M. Pook (Aus); P.Reid (Aus); M. Romain (Arg); L. Ryzhakov (Rus); P. Salter (UK); W. Seifert (Ger); J. Shanklin (UK); I. Simmonds (Aus); B. Southern (Aus); C. Stearns (USA); T. Takao (Jap); A. Tupper (Aus); J. Turner (UK); S. Wattam (UK); G. Weidner (USA); T. Yamanouchi (Jap); A. Yates (Aus).

The editors are also very grateful to:

·                         C. Rumble of the British Antarctic Survey for the design of the front cover and to P. Bucktrout for providing the photograph upon which the cover design is based; B. Atkinson, B.Copplestone, S. Dixon and K.Shepherd (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) for computing support; the Australian Antarctic Division, which provided the base map from which the production of the regional scale maps in Chapter 7 was undertaken by the editors and which provided many other maps; and to Paul Carroll ( who generously provided many of the sub‑Antarctic location maps.

·                         P. Chang, R. Ferraro and N. Grody (all of NOAA–NESDIS–ORA), T. Lee (USA Naval Research Lab.), S. Tremble (Remote Sensing Systems, USA), and C. Kummerow (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) for providing excellent information and guidance on Section (“Passive microwave products").

·                         The South African Weather Bureau (Climate Division) for providing the climate data; I Hunter and J. van der Merwe (South African Weather Bureau) for providing information on SANAE IV; and N. Sharp for reviewing the drafts of South African Weather Bureau material. (Section 7.5.5 (“SANAE Station”)).

·                         The material relating to Frei in Section 7.3.2 (“King George Island, South Shetland Islands”) is based on internal reports by meteorologists of the Dirección Meteorológica de Chile. To all of these go the recognition and appreciation of the authors of Section 7.3.2.

·                         B. Lunnon (Head of Aviation Applications, UK Meteorological Office) and A. Skomina and D. Thomas (both of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology) for providing feedback on Section 6.6.10 (“Turbulence"); S. Bauguitte for the translation (French to English) of Section 7.2.7 (“Kerguelen Islands”); J. Smith (Palmer Station Science Technician) for feedback on aspects of Section 7.3.6 (“The West–Central Section of the Peninsula”) Marian Moyher (Manager Laboratory Science Raytheon Polar Services Company) for coordinating aspects of Sections 7.3.6, 7.12.5 (“Amundsen–Scott (South Pole) Station”), 7.12.6 (“Ross Ice Shelf camps”), and 7.13.2 (“Byrd Station”); and I. Bell and J. Wilson (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) for providing comprehensive suggestions on Appendix 4 (“A suggested training programme for Antarctic weather forecasters”).


The editors wish to dedicate this handbook:

·                         to all the weather observers and technicians who year–round make measurements and observations, and maintain the observing equipment, in the hostile environment of the Antarctic, without which forecasts and knowledge of the climate of the Antarctic would be guesswork;

·                         to all the researchers and modelers who seek to make sense of these observations and who seek to provide the scientific infrastructure upon which sound forecasts are made;

·                         to the authors of the various Antarctic forecasting handbooks or manuals which have assisted the Antarctic weather forecasters of individual nations. It is known that S. Allen, A. Stark and H. R. Phillpot were primarily responsible for the Australian Antarctic Forecasters' Handbook (Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 1991) (H.R. Phillpot followed this work with, inter alia, a comprehensive study of weather in East Antarctica with operational forecasters in mind (Phillpot (1997)); J. Turner, T. Lachlan–Cope and R. Ladkin authored the British Antarctic Survey Forecasting Manual (British Antarctic Survey, 1997); while R. W. Sallee and A.W. Snell were the original major contributors to the USA Navy's Antarctic Forecasters Handbook (US Navy (1970)). It is also known that many Soviet/Russian forecasters (for example, V. Belyazo, A. Kuznetsov, E. Lutsenko and L. Ryzhakov) have made a significant contribution to the weather forecasting programme for the Russian Antarctic stations. The editors would appreciate advice on similar contributors to these or other Antarctic weather forecasting handbooks or manuals that they might be acknowledged here in future revisions of this handbook.

·                         and finally, to all weather forecasters who have dared to, or who will yet dare to predict the future state of the Antarctic atmosphere.