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Lee J. Welhouse
,
Matthew A. Lazzara
,
Linda M. Keller
,
Gregory J. Tripoli
, and
Matthew H. Hitchman

Abstract

Previous investigations of the relationship between El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Antarctic climate have focused on regions that are impacted by both El Niño and La Niña, which favors analysis over the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas (ABS). Here, 35 yr (1979–2013) of European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) data are analyzed to investigate the relationship between ENSO and Antarctica for each season using a compositing method that includes nine El Niño and nine La Niña periods. Composites of 2-m temperature (T 2m), sea level pressure (SLP), 500-hPa geopotential height, sea surface temperatures (SST), and 300-hPa geopotential height anomalies were calculated separately for El Niño minus neutral and La Niña minus neutral conditions, to provide an analysis of features associated with each phase of ENSO. These anomaly patterns can differ in important ways from El Niño minus La Niña composites, which may be expected from the geographical shift in tropical deep convection and associated pattern of planetary wave propagation into the Southern Hemisphere. The primary new result is the robust signal, during La Niña, of cooling over East Antarctica. This cooling is found from December to August. The link between the southern annular mode (SAM) and this cooling is explored. Both El Niño and La Niña experience the weakest signal during austral autumn. The peak signal for La Niña occurs during austral summer, while El Niño is found to peak during austral spring.

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Matthew A. Lazzara
,
Linda M. Keller
,
Charles R. Stearns
,
Jonathan E. Thom
, and
George A. Weidner

Abstract

For over 30 years, weather forecasting for the Antarctic continent and adjacent Southern Ocean has relied on weather satellites. Significant advancements in forecasting skill have come via the weather satellite. The advent of the high-resolution picture transmission (HRPT) system in the 1980s and 1990s allowed real-time weather forecasting to become a reality. Small-scale features such as mesocyclones and polar lows could be tracked and larger-scale features such as katabatic winds could be detected using the infrared channel. Currently, HRPT is received at most of the manned Antarctic stations. In the late 1990s the University of Wisconsin composites, which combined all available polar and geostationary satellite imagery, allowed a near-real-time hemispheric view of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic continent. The newest generation of satellites carries improved vertical sounders, special sensors for microwave imaging, and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor.

In spite of the advances in sensors, shortcomings still impede the forecaster. Gaps in satellite data coverage hinder operations at certain times of the day. The development and implementation of software to derive products and visualize information quickly has lagged. The lack of high-performance communications links at many of the manned stations reduces the amount of information that is available to the forecasters.

Future applications of weather satellite data for Antarctic forecasting include better retrievals of temperature and moisture and more derived products for fog, cloud detection, and cloud drift winds. Upgrades in technology at Antarctic stations would allow regional numerical prediction models to be run on station and use all the current and future satellite data that may be available.

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Melissa A. Nigro
,
John J. Cassano
,
Jonathan Wille
,
David H. Bromwich
, and
Matthew A. Lazzara

Abstract

Accurate representation of the stability of the surface layer in numerical weather prediction models is important because of the impact it has on forecasts of surface energy, moisture, and momentum fluxes. It also impacts boundary layer processes such as the generation of turbulence, the creation of near-surface flows, and fog formation. This paper uses observations from a 30-m automatic weather station on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, to evaluate the near-surface layer in the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS), a numerical weather prediction system used for forecasting in Antarctica. The method of self-organizing maps (SOM) is used to identify characteristic potential temperature anomaly profiles observed at the 30-m tower. The SOM-identified profiles are then used to evaluate the performance of AMPS as a function of atmospheric stability.

The results indicate AMPS underpredicts the frequency of near-neutral profiles and instead overpredicts the frequency of weakly unstable and weak to moderately stable profiles. AMPS does not forecast the strongest statically stable patterns observed by Tall Tower, but in the median, the AMPS forecasts are more statically stable across all wind speeds, indicating a possible mechanical mixing error or a negative radiation bias. The SOM analysis identifies a negative radiation bias under near-neutral to weakly stable conditions, causing an overrepresentation of the static stability in AMPS. AMPS has a positive wind speed bias in moderate to strongly stable conditions, which generates too much mechanical mixing and an underrepresentation of the static stability. Model errors increase with increasing atmospheric stability.

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Marian E. Mateling
,
Matthew A. Lazzara
,
Linda M. Keller
,
George A. Weidner
, and
John J. Cassano

Abstract

Because of the harsh weather conditions on the Antarctic continent, year-round observations of the low-level boundary layer must be obtained via automated data acquisition systems. Alexander Tall Tower! is an automatic weather station on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and has been operational since February 2011. At 30 m tall, this station has six levels of instruments to collect environmental data, including temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, and pressure. Data are collected at 30-, 15-, 7.5-, 4-, 2-, and 1-m levels above the snow surface. This study identifies short-term trends and provides an improved description of the lowest portion of the boundary layer over this portion of the Ross Ice Shelf for the February 2011–January 2014 period. Observations indicate two separate initiations of the winter season occur annually, caused by synoptic-scale anomalies. Sensible and latent heat flux estimates are computed using Monin–Obukhov similarity theory and vertical profiles of potential air temperature and wind speed. Over the three years, the monthly mean sensible heat flux ranges between 1 and 39 W m−2 (toward the surface) and the monthly mean latent heat flux ranges between −8 and 0 W m−2. Net heat fluxes directed toward the surface occur most of the year, indicating an atmospheric sink of energy.

Open access
Matthew A. Lazzara
,
George A. Weidner
,
Linda M. Keller
,
Jonathan E. Thom
, and
John J. Cassano

Antarctica boasts one of the world's harshest environments. Since the earliest expeditions, a major challenge has been to characterize the surface meteorology around the continent. In 1980, the University of Wisconsin—Madison (UW-Madison) took over the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) Automatic Weather Station (AWS) program. Since then, the UW-Madison AWS network has aided in the understanding of unique Antarctic weather and climate. This paper summarizes the development of the UW-Madison AWS network, issues related to instrumentation and data quality, and some of the ways these observations have and continue to benefit scientific investigations and operational meteorology.

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Melissa A. Nigro
,
John J. Cassano
,
Matthew A. Lazzara
, and
Linda M. Keller

Abstract

The Ross Ice Shelf airstream (RAS) is a barrier parallel flow along the base of the Transantarctic Mountains. Previous research has hypothesized that a combination of katabatic flow, barrier winds, and mesoscale and synoptic-scale cyclones drive the RAS. Within the RAS, an area of maximum wind speed is located to the northwest of the protruding Prince Olav Mountains. In this region, the Sabrina automatic weather station (AWS) observed a September 2009 high wind event with wind speeds in excess of 20 m s−1 for nearly 35 h. The following case study uses in situ AWS observations and output from the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System to demonstrate that the strong wind speeds during this event were caused by a combination of various forcing mechanisms, including katabatic winds, barrier winds, a surface mesocyclone over the Ross Ice Shelf, an upper-level ridge over the southern tip of the Ross Ice Shelf, and topographic influences from the Prince Olav Mountains. These forcing mechanisms induced a barrier wind corner jet to the northwest of the Prince Olav Mountains, explaining the maximum wind speeds observed in this region. The RAS wind speeds were strong enough to induce two additional barrier wind corner jets to the northwest of the Prince Olav Mountains, resulting in a triple barrier wind corner jet along the base of the Transantarctic Mountains.

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Nicholas J. Weber
,
Matthew A. Lazzara
,
Linda M. Keller
, and
John J. Cassano

Abstract

Numerous incidents of structural damage at the U.S. Antarctic Program’s (USAP) McMurdo Station due to extreme wind events (EWEs) have been reported over the past decade. Utilizing nearly 20 yr (~1992–2013) of University of Wisconsin automatic weather station (AWS) data from three different stations in the Ross Island region (Pegasus North, Pegasus South, and Willie Field), statistical analysis shows no significant trends in EWE frequency, intensity, or duration. EWEs more frequently occur during the transition seasons. To assess the dynamical environment of these EWEs, Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS) forecast back trajectories are computed and analyzed in conjunction with several other AMPS fields for the strongest events at McMurdo Station. The synoptic analysis reveals that McMurdo Station EWEs are nearly always associated with strong southerly flow due to an approaching Ross Sea cyclone and an upper-level trough around Cape Adare. A Ross Ice Shelf air stream (RAS) environment is created with enhanced barrier winds along the Transantarctic Mountains, downslope winds in the lee of the glaciers and local topography, and a tip jet effect around Ross Island. The position and intensity of these Ross Sea cyclones are most influenced by the occurrence of a central Pacific ENSO event, which causes the upper-level trough to move westward. An approaching surface cyclone would then be in position to trigger an event, depending on how the wind direction and speed impinges on the complex topography around McMurdo Station.

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Linda M. Keller
,
Kathryn J. Maloney
,
Matthew A. Lazzara
,
David E. Mikolajczyk
, and
Stefano Di Battista

Abstract

From 5 July to 11 September 2012, the Amundsen–Scott South Pole station experienced an unprecedented 78 days in a row with a maximum temperature at or below −50°C. Aircraft and ground-based activity cannot function without risk below this temperature. Lengthy periods of extreme cold temperatures are characterized by a drop in pressure of around 15 hPa over 4 days, accompanied by winds from grid east. Periodic influxes of warm air from the Weddell Sea raise the temperature as the wind shifts to grid north. The end of the event occurs when the temperature increase is enough to move past the −50°C threshold. This study also examines the length of extreme cold periods. The number of days below −50°C in early winter has been decreasing since 1999, and this trend is statistically significant at the 5% level. Late winter shows an increase in the number of days below −50°C for the same period, but this trend is not statistically significant. Changes in the southern annular mode, El Niño–Southern Oscillation, and the interdecadal Pacific oscillation/tripole index are investigated in relation to the initiation of extreme cold events. None of the correlations are statistically significant. A positive southern annular mode and a La Niña event or a central Pacific El Niño–Southern Oscillation pattern would position the upper-level circulation to favor a strong, symmetrical polar vortex with strong westerlies over the Southern Ocean, leading to a cold pattern over the South Pole.

Significance Statement

The Amundsen–Scott South Pole station is the coldest Antarctic station staffed year-round by U.S. personnel. Access to the station is primarily by airplane, especially during the winter months. Ambient temperature limits air access as planes cannot operate at minimum temperatures below −50°C. The station gets supplies during the winter months if needed, and medical emergencies can happen requiring evacuations. Knowing when planes would be able to fly is crucial, especially for life-saving efforts. During 2012, a record 78 continuous days of temperatures below −50°C occurred. A positive southern annular mode denoting strong westerly winds over the Pacific Ocean and a strong polar vortex over the South Pole contribute to the maintenance of long periods of extremely cold temperatures.

Open access
Daniel F. Steinhoff
,
David H. Bromwich
,
Michelle Lambertson
,
Shelley L. Knuth
, and
Matthew A. Lazzara

Abstract

On 15–16 May 2004 a severe windstorm struck McMurdo, Antarctica. The Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System (AMPS) is used, along with available observations, to analyze the storm. A synoptic-scale cyclone weakens as it propagates across the Ross Ice Shelf toward McMurdo. Flow associated with the cyclone initiates a barrier jet along the Transantarctic Mountains. Forcing terms from the horizontal equations of motion are computed in the barrier wind to show that the local time tendency and momentum advection terms are key components of the force balance. The barrier jet interacts with a preexisting near-surface radiation inversion over the Ross Ice Shelf to set up conditions favorable for the development of large-amplitude mountain waves, leading to a downslope windstorm in the Ross Island area. Hydraulic theory can explain the structure of the downslope windstorms, with amplification of the mountain waves possibly caused by wave-breaking events. The underestimation of AMPS wind speed at McMurdo is caused by the misplacement of a hydraulic jump downstream of the downslope windstorms. The dynamics associated with the cyclone, barrier jet, and downslope windstorms are analyzed to determine the role of each in development of the severe winds.

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Naoyuki Kurita
,
Takao Kameda
,
Hideaki Motoyama
,
Naohiko Hirasawa
,
David Mikolajczyk
,
Lee J. Welhouse
,
Linda M. Keller
,
George A. Weidner
, and
Matthew A. Lazzara

Abstract

The interior of Dronning Maud Land (DML) in East Antarctica is one of the most data-sparse regions of Antarctica for studying climate change. A monthly mean near-surface temperature dataset for the last 30 years has been compiled from the historical records from automatic weather stations (AWSs) at three sites in the region (Mizuho, Relay Station, and Dome Fuji). Multiple AWSs have been installed along the route to Dome Fuji since the 1990s, and observations have continued to the present day. The use of passive-ventilated radiation shields for the temperature sensors at the AWSs may have caused a warm bias in the temperature measurements, however, due to insufficient ventilation in the summer, when solar radiation is high and winds are low. In this study, these warm biases are quantified by comparison with temperature measurements with an aspirated shield and subsequently removed using a regression model. Systematic error resulting from changes in the sensor height due to accumulating snow was insignificant in our study area. Several other systematic errors occurring in the early days of the AWS systems were identified and corrected. After the corrections, multiple AWS records were integrated to create a time series for each station. The percentage of missing data over the three decades was 21% for Relay Station and 28% for Dome Fuji. The missing rate at Mizuho was 49%, more than double that at Relay Station. These new records allow for the study of temperature variability and change in DML, where climate change has so far been largely unexplored.

Significance Statement

Antarctic climate change has been studied using temperature data at staffed stations. The staffed stations, however, are mainly located on the Antarctic Peninsula and in the coastal regions. Climate change is largely unknown in the Antarctic plateau, particularly in the western sector of the East Antarctic Plateau in areas such as the interior of Dronning Maud Land (DML). To fill the data gap, this study presents a new dataset of monthly mean near-surface climate data using historical observations from three automatic weather stations (AWSs). This dataset allows us to study temperature variability and change over a data-sparse region where climate change has been largely unexplored.

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