Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's all about the weather

I have avoided saying much about the weather until now because there's something of a superstition here about it. One should definitely not comment too much about how nice it is - warm (relatively speaking), calm, etc. - for fear that will change for the (much) worse. So, now that it's bad weather, I feel comfortable talking about it.

First, to be clear, "good weather" in Antarctica this time of year would generally not be considered good weather anywhere else. The August-September time period (known here as WinFly, short for Winter Fly-in) is widely acknowledged to have some of the nastiest weather. Not necessarily the coldest, but certainly the windiest (wind chill is a big concern) and often the stormiest. Average temperatures for August are a maximum of -4 oC (+25 oF) and a minimum of -49 oC (-56 oF). The peak wind recorded for August was 100 mph!

Yesterday, a storm started here. It's been snowing pretty much continuously for at least 36 hours. It is hard to know how much accumulation there has been because the wind is blowing like crazy (sustained at 20 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph or so). It's not really that cold - the air temperature is around -23 oC (-9 oF) - but with the wind and snow, it's pretty nasty out there. In fact, the visibility is terrible, which means that work outside of town has shut down completely.

To make it easier to communicate about the weather here, they have established a "condition" system. Condition 3 means it is safe to be outdoors, even for recreational travel. Condition 2 means that either the wind chill or visibility have gotten to the point where only those who really need to be outside (for work) should be. And Condition 1 means no one should be outside (in fact, we are confined to the buildings we're in if Condition 1 is called). Right now, the station itself is at Condition 2, but all of the surrounding areas are at Condition 1. It's really starting to feel like "authentic" Antarctica, rather than the warm, calm, clear days we had right after we got here!

Observation Hill from Crary Lab on a clear day
(yes, that's the moon) - 1/3 mi away
NSF Chalet building from Crary Lab, today
300 ft away

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linnea!

    I hope that your trip is going well and I'm glad that you made it safe and sound! Hopefully the weather will clear up soon for you.