AMRC Automatic Weather Station project data, 1980 - present (ongoing).

The history of Antarctic meteorology at the University of Wisconsin begins in the 1960s, with research activities by Professor Werner Schwerdtfeger (as well as Professor Heinz Lettau). Schwerdtfeger was already a well-known Antarctic researcher before arriving at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) in 1963, and he continued this work in Madison until his retirement in 1983. Schwerdtfeger’s work utilized the sparse manned observations, and his studies illustrated the need for additional observations throughout the Antarctic.

The development of an unmanned automated weather station had been attempted in the United States Antarctic Research Program (later shortened to United States Antarctic Program or USAP) since the International Geophysical Year (IGY). In 1978, Professor Alan Peterson at the Radio Science Laboratory at Stanford University developed the forerunner to the modern Antarctic Automatic Weather Station (AWS). Key stages that led to this initial success were the development of low power integrated circuits and the Data Collection System (DCS) or Argos satellite communication system that allowed for the observational data from the AWS to be recorded on polar orbiting weather satellites and transmitted back to mid-latitude reception stations for analysis.

In 1979, Schwerdtfeger introduced the Antarctic to a colleague at UW-Madison, Professor Charles Stearns. Stearns was already very actively developing and setting up instrumentation for meteorological experiments in Wisconsin and other locations. Stearns’ experience and efforts with AWS led to the installation of weather stations around the Antarctic. The data have been used in a variety of research efforts including boundary layer meteorology experiments near the South Pole, Katabatic Wind studies in a variety of locations including Reeves Glacier and the Adelie Coast, the Long Term Ecological Research project along the Antarctic Peninsula, and Barrier wind flow studies along the Transantarctic Mountains and the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as flight forecasting and long term climatology studies of key locations such as Dome C in East Antarctica and historic Byrd Station in West Antarctica.

Today, with funding from the National Science Foundation, Office for Polar Programs, the University of Wisconsin has roughly 63 AWS sites active in Antarctica. That is more than half of all AWS systems currently deployed in the Antarctic. The AWS network fulfills several roles in support of research activities (by the UW-Madison and other research institutions both nationally and internationally), support of non-meteorological research (such as glaciological studies that are the focus of ice core activities in the Antarctic and the study of tabular icebergs), and operational activities such as weather forecasting.

Additional Info

Field Value
Citation Antarctic Meteorological Research and Data Center: Automatic Weather Station quality-controlled observational data. AMRDC Data Repository. Subset used: [DATE 1] - [DATE 2], accessed DD-MM-YYYY,
Collection Begin Date 1980-01-01
Collection End Date Ongoing
Format Text
Last Updated May 11, 2022, 3:46 PM (UTC-05:00)
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