First Images of the Season
The first Automatic Weather Station (AWS) images of the season are in! On September 9, Wx7 at Union Glacier ice runway showed Charles Peak under grey skies, with temperature a chilly -32C/-26F.
Wx7 is one of several weather stations managed by ALE. Our AWS provide real-time weather data to flight crews and assist with forecasting. Wx7 monitors weather data year-round, but only uploads images, when operating in ‘summer-mode’. It was recently activated in preparation for the upcoming Antarctic season – and we’re planning a series of AWS upgrades and new installations as well.
New AWS for 2014
Each AWS is numbered according to the year when it was installed. Wx7, installed in 2007, has now done seven winters in Antarctica. This season it will be replaced by Wx14, a brand-new AWS with improved features, and Wx12, which will be fitted with a dual-lens camera to detect drifting snow on the ice runway. The lenses can be rotated, moved left/right, up/down, then locked into place to provide views across and down the runway. Wx7 continues to operate reliably and will be moved to the skiway next to Union Glacier Camp.
An ‘allsky’ camera will also be mounted on the Wx12 tower. The sensor produces hemispheric images, which will be used to measure cloud cover. Background software will grab the live image, process it and give a measure of ‘cloudiness’ in the sky, as well as producing the composite mask image (as shown in the header image at the top of the page). Live images from the allsky camera and the dual-image runway camera can be monitored in realtime at Union Glacier Camp, via a dedicated wifi link using a browser.
Upgrades and New Locations
Wx8 will be moved from its current location in front of King Peak to a new site at ‘Thiels Corner’. It will also be upgraded to include an ‘allsky’ camera, since there are no mountains at the new location to help assess visibility and cloud cover.
Wx11 at Skytrain Ice Rise, will receive an upgrade which will allow it to be called up via Iridium phone. Wx11 is radio linked back to Union Glacier camp during the operating season, providing a constant stream of images and weather data to our meteorologist’s laptop. Currently, it must be activated/de-activated manually at the start and end of each season. This involves costly flights and means that data is not available to flight crews until AFTER season start-up. Upgrading to an Iridium link will enable us to activate/de-activate the AWS remotely, removing the need for costly flights and making data available to season start-up crews.