Antarctica – digging out the data

It seems that we are all “wild about Harry” recently, and no good kerfluffle would be complete without some pictures of the weather stations in question. It seems “Harry” got buried under snow. Why is this important? Well, as anyone skilled in cold weather survival can tell you, snow makes an excellent insulator and an excellent reflector. Snow’s trapped air insulative properties is why building a snow cave to survive in is a good idea. So is it any wonder then that a snowdrift buried temperature sensor, or a temperature sensor being lowered to near the surface by rising snow, would not read the temperature of the free near surface atmosphere accurately?

As I’ve always said, getting accurate weather station data is all about siting and how the sensors are affected by microclimate issues. Pictures help tell the story.

Here’s Harry prior to being dug out in 2006 and after:

Harry AWS, 2006 – Upon Arrival – Click to enlarge.

Harry AWS, 2006 – After digging out – Click to enlarge.

You can see “Harry’s Facebook Page” here at the University of Wisconsin

It seems digging out weather stations is a regular pastime in Antarctica, so data issues with snow burial of AWS sensors may be more than just about “Harry”. It seems Theresa (Harry’s nearby sister) and Halley VI also have been dug out and the process documented. With this being such a regular occurrence, and easily found within a few minutes of Googling by me, you’d think somebody with Steig et al or the Nature peer reviewers would have looked into this and the effect on the data that Steve McIntyre has so eloquently pointed out.

Here’s more on the snow burial issue from Antarctic bloggers:

The map showing Automated Weather Stations in

Click map for a larger image

The Gill AWS in question.

From Polartrec

Theresa was placed at this location partly to
study the air flow in the region. Looking out the window of the plane we can
definitely see the air flowing!!! Jim estimates the wind at about 25 miles per

Wind Blown snow near Theresa AWS

Wind blown snow at Theresa

With the temperature around 0F the wind chill
was about 20 below, it is obvious this is going to be quite a chore.

George digging out Theresa

Starting to dig out Theresa

The weather station has not been working, so
George needs to figure out what is wrong with it and then fix it. The station is
almost buried in the snow so we will also need to remove all of the electronics,
add a tower section and then raise and bolt all of the electronics and sensors
back in place.

eorge unhooking the electronics box at Theresa AWS

George unhooking the cables.

After refueling the plane, with the fuel in
the 55 gallon drums, Jim and Louie helped dig down to the electronics boxes that
were completely buried plus they built us a wind break that made huge difference
in helping us not be so cold. After about 4 hours we are almost through. As I am
hanging onto the top of the raised tower in the wind, one bunny boot wedged onto
the tower bracing, the other boot wrapped around the tower, one elbow gripping
the tower, my chin trying to hold the wind sensor in place and both bare numb
hands trying to thread a nut onto the spinning wind sensor I really appreciate
the difficulty of what is normally Jonathan’s job. After checking to make sure
Theresa is transmitting weather data we board the plane and head to Briana our
second station.

Theresa after we are finished.

Notice the difference between this
picture and the first one of Theresa.

From Antarctic Diary

More movement

It’s been another flat-out week. The vehicle team have dug
up and moved the Drewery building, which was getting do buried snow was
almost up the windows. Team Met have been on the move too – all the
remaining instruments are now bolted securely to the Laws roof, so we headed
up the the Halley VI building site to relocate the weather station.

Jules starts digging out the weather station

Only 15km away, the Halley VI site looks a lot like Halley V. It’s flat,
white and snowy. Very snowy. The weather station had about 1.5m built up
around it!

Jules and Simon recovering the solar panel

In the hole!

The weather station was a survey reference point for the build project so we
had to find a suitable replacement. Could this be Antarctica’s first
pole-dancing venue?

Penguin Party memories…

After an hour or so sweating it our with shovels, the weather station popped
out and was loaded onto the sledge. Like the reference point, the station’s
new location had to be precise as vehicles are banned from the upwind
section of the site to keep that area ultra-clean for future snow-chemistry

Weather station on the move

Driving on a compass bearing and GPS track, we found the new site just under
a kilometre away.

The final setup

UPDATE: here’s another buried station story from Bob’s Adventures in cold climes. Apparently this station is used as a reference for some sort of borehole project.

I dig weather stations

My main task for today was to get a start on raising my weather station. I’d installed it 2 years ago, and with the high accumulation at Summit, it’s getting buried. The electronics are all in a box under the snow, and the only things visible at the surface were the anemometer for measuring wind speed and direction, the thermistor for measuring air temperature, and the solar panel to keep the batteries charged.

The buried weather station. The flat green bit is the solar panel, which was about 1.5 meters off the surface when I installed the station. Can you guess why I would mount it facing down?

In the morning I downloaded all the data from the station, and checked to see that it was all in order. Then it was time for digging. I’d carefully made a diagram when I inastalled the station, so I knew exactly where to dig. A couple of hours later I’d found my box!

At the bottom of the pit with the datalogger electronics.

I brought everything up to the surface, and then was about to fill in the pit, when I realized at least one more scientist at Summit might want to make measurements in it; the pit’s already dug! So tomorrow I’ll help Lora with some conductivity measurements, then fill in the pit, re-bury the box just beneath the surface, and it’ll be ready to go for another 2 years!

And there’s more….

The Australians seem to have AWS problems as well. From the Australian Antarctic Division:

On Monday two groups headed out, with Largy and Denis going up to the skiway to check on the condition of the equipment stored there for the winter and beginning preparations for the coming summer flying season.

Bill, Brian and Ian went up to the Lanyon Junction Automatic Weather Station (AWS) to check its condition and retrieve some of the sensors in preparation for the annual servicing of the various remote units.

Automatic weather station buried 1.5m in snow

A hard life for an AWS – Buried 1.5 metres
Photo: Ian P.

This used to be an anemometer
Photo: Ian P.

And the University of Maine, participating in USITASE, has the same troubles, they write:

We reached our first major destination at the end of today’s travel, the site of the Nico weather station. There are several automatic weather stations spread out over the surface of Antarctica. These stations measure things like temperature, wind speed and wind direction and then relay this data back to scientists via satellite. Anything left on the surface of the snow will eventually be drifted in and buried by blowing snow. This particular weather station (NICO) has not been seen in several years. They tried to locate it via airplane a few years ago and were unsuccessful. Our task was to find the weather station, record its position with GPS, and mark the location with flags so that in the near future, the weather station can be raised and serviced.

We arrived at the coordinates of the station around 10 pm. Our initial scans of the horizon were not productive, so Matthew and John took the lead tractor (with our crevasse-detecting radar) out to survey a grid near our stopping point. The radar should detect a large metal object like a weather station, but the survey was also unsuccessful. After a fine pasta and tomato sauce dinner, John went outside for an evening constitutional. He saw a shiny object out in the distance – further inspection with a pair of binoculars determined that it was the top of the NICO weather station! Several of us marched out to the station, which was actually about a half mile distant, marked the location with bright orange flags and recorded the position via GPS for future reference. Only the top foot or two of the station was still visible. John was in exactly the right place at the right time to see a reflection from this object while we were near the kitchen module, and so allowed us to complete our first task successfully.
Tomorrow, we drive on.

This regular burial and digging out of stations brings the whole network of AWS stations to be used as sensitive climate measurement stations into question.

UPDATE: the question has arisen about “occupied” aka “manned” weather stations in Antarctica (Stevenson Screens etc) versus the Automated Weather Stations. This picture on a postage stamp from Australia, celebrating the Australian Antarctic Territory in 1997, may help settle the issue. Note the Stevenson Screen near the “living pod” on the right.

Here is the larger photo of the first day of issue card, the Stevenson Screen is also just visible above the snowbank in the lower right. Rather close to human habitation I’d say. Looks like its in the middle of an AHI (Antarctic Heat Island).

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Here’s another picture of a Stevenson Screen close to a building in Antarctica, from the British Antarctic Survey:


Location: Fossil Bluff, Alexander Island
Season: 1994/1995
Photographer: Pete Bucktrout


  1. JaneHM
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 2:55 PM | Permalink

    Is this also an issue at Arctic stations?

  2. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM | Permalink

    Link to photos of Minna Bluff AWS. Someone needs edit the photo dates!

    The AMRC project definitely need to spend some time cleaning up this site!

  3. TLC-LosAlamos
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:25 PM | Permalink

    Please help me to understand why it was necessary to “Dig-Out” these antarctic weather stations. Did the stations sink into the snow and ice of Antarctica? It can NOT be that snow has been piling-up around the stations since there is a “CONSENSUS” that Antarctica is warming and losing snow and ice!! -snip

  4. tty
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    Re 1

    On Greenland it is, but not elsewhere. Actually this burial is an interesting weather parameter by itself, since it is the only really reliable way to measure precipitation in most of Antarctica. Normal precipitation measurements are useless since the snow is blowing around so much.

  5. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

    There’s Something About Harry?

  6. JohnH
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    Quick, Anthony, report your findings to the “proper” authorities or you will be accused of “playing games.”

  7. KlausB
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    it’s getting funnier by the day. There’s no – absolutely no – way, we have to evaluate both, stations and
    data very, very carefully.

    By the way, internet traffic is damm slowly.
    I’ve a 16Mbit connection here.
    Most of local sites, connections (UUNET, Telecom, Colt) working fine.
    But in the last 30 minutes, I have had timeouts on both, CA and WUWT.


  8. Dave Andrews
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:11 PM | Permalink

    So, many of these stations have to be dug out and moved on a regular basis. How does this affect the reliability of their temperature measurements?

  9. Edward
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    Was the Byrd AWS2B with a WMO number of 89324 located at 80.007S and 119.404W installed Feb 1980 included in Steig’s study?
    The Wisconsin Web site shows 14 West Antartica Sites at the link:

    The sites by “name” including Harry are:
    Mount Siple
    Siple Dome

    Here is an example of missing data from the Byrd WMO number 89324 location:

    1988 April to Dec
    1989 Mar-Dec
    1990 Nov+Dec
    1992 July-Sept, Nov+Dec
    1996 May-Dec
    1999 June-Oct
    2000 Oct-Dec
    2001 Jan-Sept, Nov+Dec
    2002 May-Oct
    2003 Sept-Dec
    2004 June-Nov
    2005 June-Dec

  10. Fred
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:30 PM | Permalink

    As someone who grew up in Ottawa I KNOW snow shoveling and the amount of snow removed between the two pictures is HUGE.

    Or maybe they just moved the station ?

    Also notice the Twotter in the picture series . . Ken Borek Air . . the world’s best cold weather air service provider and famous in the Great White North/North.

    • Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

      Re: Fred (#12),
      I don’t think they dig them out. Several photos on the UNI Wisconson AWS page (see links above) suggest that either they are moved or a new tower section is installed on top to increase the height.

      • Urederra
        Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

        Re: MarcH (#17),

        Yeah, they raise the tower by adding a new section.

  11. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:38 PM | Permalink

    Another Fred from Ottawa here. Unlike the Antartic, most of the Canadian Arctic weather stations are at community airports, eg. Grise Fiord, Resolute, Clyde River, Repulse Bay etc. Therefore, one would hope, that getting buried isn’t happening…

    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Silly question: with so much snow on the ground and frozen solid ground below, what are the stations anchored to???


    • Urederra
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

      Re: BDAABAT (#14),

      Silly question: with so much snow on the ground and frozen solid ground below, what are the stations anchored to???


      I guess they are anchored to the ice sheet.

      Different topic, from the article:

      The buried weather station. The flat green bit is the solar panel, which was about 1.5 meters off the surface when I installed the station. Can you guess why I would mount it facing down?

      Because the snow is an excellent light reflector and that way the active part of the solar panel doesn’t get covered by snow?

      And now a question related to Steig’s paper i hope somebody can answer it. why did it take Nature 10.5 months to accept Steig’s paper for publication?

  13. Jim Arndt
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    I read some where that the weather stations are actually causing the ice sheet to increase by trapping the snow and not letting it blow away. It’s called Anthropogenic Weather Station Accumulation (AWSA)generically known as Mann Made Ice sheet Advancement.

  14. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:23 PM | Permalink

    As I understand it, they dig out the instrument and electronics packages, add a section then put them back on the new section at the new and improved height.

  15. Will
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:24 PM | Permalink

    Is it possible to ascertain when a temperature sensor has been covered by snow by looking at the data feed from the station. On average would this introduce a warming or cooling trend to the data.
    For instance, considering Harry as an example. Would be possible to find the date that the station was raised without looking at the maintenance record.

    • Gary A.
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:49 PM | Permalink

      Re: Will (#20),

      Is it possible to ascertain when a temperature sensor has been covered by snow by looking at the data feed from the station.

      It looks to me like solar panels are lower than the temp sensors. This would seem to indicate that the stations would quit broadcasting before the temperature sensors go below the snow (looks like 6″ to 12″ above the solar panel). Of course the height of the sensors above the snow will decrease from 6′ or so as the snow “buries” the station.

      • Will
        Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

        Re: Gary A. (#40),
        I would assume that the solar panel feed a battery.
        How long would the battery allow for data to be transmitted.
        My intent with these questions is to find out if it would be possible by carefully analyzing the data feed from the stations to figure out when the temp sensor is providing a false reading and thus influence the temperature trend used in the Steig paper.


  16. BlogReader
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    This is just another multiplier that can be added in to correct for the snow covered sensors. Non-story.

  17. Edward
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

    Even without accounting for the time periods that the Byrd AWS Station 89324 might have been covered by snow, it did not report results for 76 entire months (29% of the total reporting time period) over the last 22 years. See above post for the detail.

  18. George
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    I can see a real warm bias being introduced here over time. Back when weather stations were all manually read the stations would probably be kept free of snow by who ever was doing the daily monitoring. As AWS have taken over and mongering has moved to a monthly or as it seems by this quote.

    “I brought everything up to the surface, and then was about to fill in the pit, when I realized at least one more scientist at Summit might want to make measurements in it; the pit’s already dug! So tomorrow I’ll help Lora with some conductivity measurements, then fill in the pit, [b]re-bury the box just beneath the surface, and it’ll be ready to go for another 2 years![/b]”

    Bi yearly task. Snow cover has become a real issue leading to an inevitable positive bias. Its not unlike the white wash vs. latex based paint problem that Anthony identified. As more and more stations become AWS more and more stations become snow covered which imparts a positive bias from when they were regally maintained and cleared.

    • Urederra
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:54 PM | Permalink

      Re: George (#27),

      Bi yearly task. Snow cover has become a real issue leading to an inevitable positive bias.

      I wonder if the math guys could pick up a short of bi-yearly (biennial is the proper term) signal in any of those AW stations.

      • George
        Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:07 PM | Permalink

        Re: Urederra (#30),
        I’m sure the team could if they put their mind to it. After all why the criticize Anthony for his research in to such effects because he is finding a positive bias. The team came up with the bucket adjustment which juas an application of the same principle. If they are going to adjust for buckets why don’t they adjust for snow cover, or latex paint vs. white wash?

  19. Tim
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

    What Stieg’s study really appears to reveal is neither Antarctic cooling nor warming — it is the incredibly shoddy state of peer review. I’m no expert, but why can’t the experts at Nature find during months of review the kinds of problems Steve finds working unpaid, part time from his basement, in a matter of hours?

    It would seem the idea of peer review itself no longer holds up in the internet age. Why not do with scientific papers as Microsoft is doing with Windows 7? Put it out there in “beta” for the community to play with and break before final release?

    At least a lot of these problems could be run down before the folks at Nature make further jack asses of themselves.

    • henry
      Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

      Re: Tim (#23), Because Steve looks at the warmest stations first to see if the data’s good, while the peer-review looks at the coldest stations first to find ways to eliminate data.

  20. Henry
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 5:51 PM | Permalink

    A trivial but mildly curious thing about Theresa. There is no data for the start of January 1998 but there is for the end of the month. So presumably digging out the station restarted the data flow. The data starts early on January 24, even though PolarTrec reports the dig being on January 26. Probably due to a flexible use of “today” in the land of the midnight sun.

    • Hugo M
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

      Re: Henry (#29),
      I guess the date difference regarding Theresa could reflect the last available chunk of buffered data, which would have been sent as soon as the satellite data link was up again. If there is actually something like a ring buffer, the data around recovery date would provide an estimator of the effect on sensor readings of before and after a station had been recovered.

      Generally, I would be interested in how the normally redundant data of the two temperature sensors is being processed. The photographs from Harry’s last rebirth show the lower end of one temperature sensor shield being covered with snow. This should have resulted in different readings from the two sensors. How does the controller handle this case? Is such a situation reflected in the transmitted data frame?

  21. Stuart
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    Well to me it is as clear as the day is long and of course it is when Harry met Aunt Sally

  22. Mark T.
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

    Cheerleaders do not understand the concept of a humorous play on words. Defensive, too, they seem to be.


  23. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    The following excerpt from Steig et al. (2009) would seem to indicate that the snow surface to temperature detection distance is important for the AWS and occupied stations.

    Results from our AWS-based reconstruction agree well with those from the TIR data (Fig. 2). This is important because the infrared data are strictly a measure of clear-sky temperatures and because surface temperature differs from air temperature 2–3m above the surface, as measured at occupied stations or at AWSs. Trends in cloudiness or in the strength of the near-surface inversion could both produce spurious trends in the temperature onstruction. The agreement between the reconstructions, however, rules out either potential bias as significant.

  24. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:28 PM | Permalink

    Jon, being humorless has it’s disadvantages. My context was related to “digging out”. i.e. the heavy effort of snow shoveling, etc., hence “snow job”. The phrase in the title is a twist on the use, which blew past you it appears. It seems others got it.

    Steve is well aware of the post title, and if he saw an issue with it, he would have told me so. I’ve been in email communications with him during the day regarding server issues. Thanks to splendid work by “webbed Pete” it has been upgraded to handle the increased traffic today.

    Over at RC they allow such descriptions of me as “Watts Up Your A**” with apparently no compunction. Being a champion of civil blog discourse, I’m sure you will lodge a complaint there too? 😉

    But, you ignore the very real issue of data integrity at your own peril.

    – Anthony

    • Kenneth Fritsch
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#37),

      Over at RC they allow such descriptions of me as “Watts Up Your A**” with apparently no compunction. Being a champion of civil blog discourse, I’m sure you will lodge a complaint there too?

      I am thinking that those complaints about discourse here are merely a way, albeit subjectively, of one with a differing POV showing a negative reaction to what they read here. If they did the same shushing at blogs where they are in better agreement with the general POV, I would suspect an under developed sense of humor. They would be a real drag around the my house.

  25. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

    Does “igloo voodoo” have adequate multinational short meaning?

  26. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:17 PM | Permalink

    RE40 Gary A. Note that they do have batteries and a data logger in most cases, so it it quite possible that they will operate long after the solar panels are covered.

    I know this because I designed and now sell a similar AWS solar powered station, which you can see here:

    It will operate up to two weeks or more (depending on data logging and transmit intervals used) on the 36AH gel cell battery in he electronics NEMA enclosure. Most of the time the station draws less than 100 milliamps. Only when transmitting data does it draw larger currents. If they have these Antarctic AWS units set to log data for 24 hours or longer, then transmit, they may very well operate for weeks or months without solar power.

    I would assume that being situated in the place of the long Antarctic night, they are designed to do just that. Otherwise they’d all croak in the long night.

    • Gary A.
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#46),

      I agree they have large batteries and should work a long time after solar panel goes under. The question, I guess is, how fast does the snow bury these things. If there is a 1′ between the solar panel and the sensor then it could take a significant time for the build up to occur. I guess I’m under the impression these stations get buried over a period of years, but that is just from quick glances thru their service logs.

    • bender
      Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 11:59 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#36),
      At what temperature do the batteries fail on these AWSs? -40?

  27. Steve Huntwork
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 7:54 PM | Permalink

    Gary A. (47):

    I think the article above has already answered your question:

    “I dig weather stations
    My main task for today was to get a start on raising my weather station. I’d installed it 2 years ago, and with the high accumulation at Summit, it’s getting buried. The electronics are all in a box under the snow, and the only things visible at the surface were the anemometer for measuring wind speed and direction, the thermistor for measuring air temperature, and the solar panel to keep the batteries charged.”

  28. Eric Gamberg
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 8:20 PM | Permalink


    Despite repeatedly pointing to erroneous photos posted in the SurfaceStations Database for Eureka, South Dakota there has been no correction (deletion of photos from a site apparently in Missouri) for over a month. There has been direct e-mail of the issue.

    Can you explain your response timing and procedures for “data” correction compared to those of CA, RC and BAS?


    Steve: this has nothing to do with Antarctica. Please discuss it at Watts Up or elsewhere. I’ve deleted a number of posts that breached blog policies.

  29. Eric Gamberg
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 9:21 PM | Permalink

    This photo:

    No fraud yet as all the stations haven’t been surveyed. Conclusions are only preliminary. These are the type of problems that can result when using remote sensing without some actual on the ground auditing and database review. 😉

  30. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

    Eric, thanks for the heads up but I’m baffled about communications. Why have you not responded to emails I sent? The only emails I have from you are the one where you say that you suggested some changes on the gallery main page for accessibility. I replied to those.

    I responded to that. But I have no others from you. I have no responses to the ones I sent a couple of weeks ago.

    You also know where my blog is, so why not post a comment there if you sent an email and I didn’t respond? Easy to do. As you can see I’m here and accessible.

    Your communications methodology here is problematic when it is assumed that no response to emails you send is a sign of ignoring them. I’m happy to fix the problem, now that I know there may be one.

    For CA readers I should point out that Eric is one of the most prolific surveyors for the project, having done dozens of stations, and if he points out a problem, then I have a high confidence in it being a real problem.

    What I think we have here, is “failure to communicate” via email that is…it happens these days with so many spam filters etc.

    Be assured I’ll look into it and fix it. – Anthony

    Steve: As noted, I’ve editorially removed some posts on this issue,. that do not relate to Antarctica. If the issue isn’t resolved, feel free to raise it on Unthreaded. I apologize for not simply moving the other posts to Unthreaded – I should have.

  31. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:02 PM | Permalink

    why the solar panel mounted inverted?

    My guess is, two reasons:

    1- to prevent occasional snow accumulation on it which would reduce power

    2- a) the sun’s elevation varies a lot and is typically low over the horizon., AND it changes azimuth greatly during a day, b) sun’s rays are directional.
    that result in only a small part of the day with a favorable incidence angle on the solar panel. Furthermore, it changes with the period of the year.

    If you mount it upside down, you get to harness the lambertian reflective property of snow, the panel is almost always seeing light coming from a full half-sphere (minus the shadow zone of the panel itself), thus seeing overall, along the day and seasons, way more light than if it was fixed pointing to the sky.

    It now occurs to me that it’s probably one of the rare places on earth where you can get sunburned on the underside of your nose. 🙂

    That’s clever, I didn’t think of that before reading the original article…

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

      Re: JFA in Montreal (#48),

      re: the mounting of solar panels facing down

      Another possible reason is that the panel will be seeing more shadow as the snow rises towards it. This would reduce the output of the panel and could, possibly, provide an indication of the height of the panel above the snow.

      Well it is a guess anyway

  32. Evan Jones
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:14 PM | Permalink

    The fault was mine and mine alone.

  33. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:15 PM | Permalink

    What is the effect of burying on temp sensor readings?

    If it’s not too deep, the sensor will thermalise to the average temp, with a delay. The insulation will dampen the temp variation.

    If light reaches it, it might slightly heat up. When light does not reach significantly, it will be dampened.

    I don’t see the insulation doing much in increasing the apparent average temperature. A temp sensor does not suffer from windchill, like us, liquid-based critters. Unless one thinks that 5ft of snow above is significantly more insulating that 1000 ft of snow below and that heat comes from the planet’s core to heat up the sensor ? Does not make sense.

    Or does the measuring current in the sensor induces heating, which after being insulated by snow, causes an upward shift in the readout?

    While those sensors might not give good instantaneous results, I wonder what is the true induced inaccuracy on the longer term. I surmise that a sensor buried 6in might be affected by light but one that is a few feet deep will only show a slight lag with real outside temperature.

    Are there any expert on that topic around? I’m just an amateur…

    • Reference
      Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 1:59 AM | Permalink

      Re: JFA in Montreal (#45),

      Here’s a link to Australian Antarctic Division Dome Argus AWS. Note that the subsurface temperatures have a filtered low frequency signal, ideal for climate studies 😉

  34. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:16 PM | Permalink

    Hi Eric,

    The lat/lon we have in the station survey form done by Evan jones does indeed place the station in Eureka, SD

    Here is the PDF report:

    and here is the lat/lon from it

    45.79167, -99.64167

    Which puts it on 327th street just south of the Eureka SD airport. So I think we have the right station and city.

    In your upload ANOT_SD_Eureka image to that folder, you list it as Winner, Smithville, MO. The NCDC MMS lat/lon for that station is 39.38833,-94.58083 which when examined does not match your map and put it in the dead center of the 169 Spur road.

    The other possibility for Smithville, MO is the Smithville Lake station at 39.39028,-94.55528 but that does not match your ANOT_SD_Eureka image either.

    I’ve contacted the person who did the aerial survey, Evan Jones to ask about this. I do recall that he sent me the Google live link to have me look at it to determine if indeed that was an MMTS and I approved it. Evan has also been calling observers directly to verify the placements een in aerial photos.

    But I approved it. So if there is a fault, it is with me.

    But I’m having trouble making the connection between your ANOT_SD_Eureka image for Smithfiled, MO and how you think that one is Eureka, SD. Can you kindly elaborate?

    UPDATE: We figured it out. Eric is correct. The survey form is for the correct station, but the overhead view and MMTS spotting is not the correct station. I’ve taken the erroneous photos offline and we”l redo that survey. Anyone who spots any similar error is encouraged to contact me over at – Anthony

  35. Edward
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

    Gavin’s got a new post up at RC that fixes any problems with Steig’s analysis showing that the problems with Harry did not matter. Seems that Gavin has been really busy the past few days.

  36. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:18 PM | Permalink

    Evans, I’d suggest you purposefully mount the panels upside down then. 🙂 Have anyone compared the power output, integrated over a full arctic year, of an upside down panel? My best it would be higher than one pointing upward.

  37. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

    RE41 Steve I agree, and I’m sorry. My interest in solving the puzzle overode my thoughts on thread relevance, I’ll contact Eric off thread.

  38. Evan Jones
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:28 PM | Permalink

    Sorry for the OT.

    It is entirely my fault. I screwed up and took the wrong coordinates off MMS. Google Earth was a bust, so I failed to make the mismatch. And I didn’t know how to tke the coordinates off the LS URL at the time (I do now). So it’s my fault, not Anthony’s.

  39. Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:32 PM | Permalink

    Copy of post on WUWT that is of relevance. Note that the station at Amunsen-Scott is manned.

    The Amundsen-Scot station chart from GISS might be of interest to WUWT readers. There appears to be a discernable human influence on temperature.

    This shows a zig-zag pattern from 1957 to about 1977 with a temperature range of about 1 degree. From 1977(?) onwards the amplitude of temperature range dramatically increases up to about 3 degrees C.

    Could this reflect human influence from 1977 onwards as station size increased?

    Perhaps. According to Wiki the original South Pole station was abandoned in 1975 and moved and replaced with the dome. Additional building was undertaken in the late 1990s. The current station includes three power generators running on JP-8 jet fuel and a green house.

    I couldn’t find where the actual weather station is located but I hope its not next to the green house or under a BBQ.


  40. Steve Huntwork
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

    I also fully agree and those comments should have been deleted.

  41. Alan Wilkinson
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    Apart from burial problems, is there any reading sensitivity to height above the reflective snow surface?

    Obviously that varies continuously. Also, do they get recalibrated after a recovery? And if so is there an adjustment process for previous data that may have drifted off calibration?

    In fact, is there some kind of formal data quality control process around station servicing and if so what is it?

  42. Edward
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 10:39 PM | Permalink

    March #52
    The link you provided to GISS does not seem to go anywhere.

  43. Steve J
    Posted Feb 4, 2009 at 11:05 PM | Permalink

    This thread really needs a joke about “data mining”.

  44. Edward
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

    March #57
    That works.

  45. Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 6:00 AM | Permalink

    On the subject of digging things out of Antarctic snow and ice, I wonder if Steig et al are familiar with this paper?

    It doesn’t seem to have made it into IPCC AR4 for some reason. Perhaps that is because it is a good old-fashioned piece of research, where a hypothesis is supported by observations without the aid of heavy duty statistical analysis.

  46. Matthew
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 6:34 AM | Permalink

    With so many stations being buried in snow, we are told Antartica is WARMING ????
    Oh Golly !!!!

  47. Edward
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 10:14 AM | Permalink

    Members of the “team” are showing signs of distress as can be found in this recent comment today by Eric as he continues to dig out at RC.

    [Response: #2 and #36 are at the base of the Antarctic Peninsula (on the Weddell side). #60 is ‘Theresa’, not too far from “Harry”. If you were still thinking like McIntyre, you’d accuse me of dishonestly including those two stations which are arguably ‘really’ on Antarctic Peninsula in my average for West Antarctica (they are just south of 72 S). Sorry, but doing that makes the comparison with the satellite data even better. Oh wait, about face! Channeling SM.. hang on a sec…. “Better idea: Steig is right about West Antarctica. It’s the Antarctic Peninsula where we made up data. Yeah, that must be it. The Antarctic Peninsula is cooling!!” …sigh…–eric]

  48. jarhead
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    re Tegiri Nenashi

    Your link is to annual temps and shows little change, the link below is to the monthly temps and show wide seasonal changes:

    I would not expect “… any noise related to day-night temperature difference” I think the South Pole has one long day and one long night, not much change intra day (24 hour) change.

    I don’t think the human heat effect can be discounted for the reasons MarcH stated.

  49. jarhead
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    Messed up the posting

    The link is here

  50. jarhead
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 1:16 PM | Permalink

    Third try is a charm

    here is the link

  51. Jeremy
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    So, solar panels are used to power these stations, presumably with battery backup. Will those batteries last the whole southern-hemisphere winter? Please correct me here, but if they actually get winter temperature data from those stations, that’s amazing. That’s pretty demanding on batteries considering the Antarctic can get a few months of no sun. In such cold temperatures, I am actually very impressed at that battery technology.

    In fact, if they are lasting the whole winter, those batteries would seem to even beat what we put into space for mars rovers, etc… Which isn’t that surprising since Space has weight and material considerations that Antarctica doesn’t.

    • D. Patterson
      Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

      Re: Jeremy (#69),

      Here is what they have to say about their AWS batteries:

      The AWS unit is powered by six to twelve 40 ampere-hour 12 volt gel-cell batteries charged by one or two 10 Watt solar panels. At the South Pole, 12 batteries and two solar panels are sufficient to operate the AWS unit through the year, while six batteries and one solar panel are adequate on the Ross Ice Shelf. Several of the AWS units have operated on the same batteries and solar panel for 6 to 10 years.

  52. Tim McHenry
    Posted Feb 5, 2009 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    Well it seems they won’t have to keep digging forever. When it all melts we will be looking for up to 21ft sea rise according to: This Story carried by FoxNews
    Needless to say, Peter Clark makes many assumptions concerning our demise.

  53. Posted Feb 6, 2009 at 8:34 PM | Permalink

    bender which -40 ? F or C

    • Phil.
      Posted Feb 6, 2009 at 10:58 PM | Permalink

      Re: Anthony Watts (#75),

      Anthony Watts:
      February 6th, 2009 at 8:34 pm
      bender which -40 ? F or C

      Very droll! Both. 😉

  54. AnonyMoose
    Posted Feb 6, 2009 at 9:58 PM | Permalink

    Interesting. Poster session notes “On the one
    hand, for stations located in Western Antarctica detected climatic jumps take place mostly under, or
    following, La Nia or neutral conditions. On the other hand, although detected climatic jumps for the
    stations located in Eastern Antarctica take place under a wide variety of conditions, they often do so
    under, or following, El Nio events”

    “Detecting climatic jumps in 500 HPA geopotential height monthly anomalies in Antarctica”

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  1. […] evidence suggests that they are often buried in snow (an excellent insulator) for long periods. See this article for pictures of visits to these stations to dig them […]

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