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24 April, 2000

Weather Data Recording Question 65: Which whale has been called the "greyhound of the sea"? Weather watching is a major hobby for all on station. For 022 , wind speed and direction determine whether or not we will be able to dive on a parcticular day. At one time or another during the day, everyone pokes his head into the coms room where the weather satellite screen, the barometric pressure, temperature and wind speed instruments and weather records are kept. The Palmer Science Technician is in charge of organizing and maintaining Palmer's weather collection. Weather data is collected four times a day, every day, all year long. The science technician has the late watch. The doctor, lab supervisor and network administrator each do one watch during the day. On each watch, they record: wind speed and direction, ambient temperature, current and change in barometric pressure, type, amount and change of precipitation over the last 3 hours, (when light) the amount, type and height of the cloud layers, a current description of the weather conditions, a summary of the weather conditions over the last 6 hours, water temperature, ice conditions, (every 12 hours) maximum and minimum temperature, and any unusual things like rainbows and wind gusts. This data is compiled in detailed code form (ie. "ci = 0" means "concentration of sea ice = no sea ice in sight") and read over the radio to Rothera (a British Antarctic station south of us), and from there it is passed on to Vrenadsky Station. The Science Technician makes a summary of each day that includes the maximum and average temperatures, barometric pressure, the peak wind and its direction, average (prevailing) wind and total precipitation. These daily summaries are in turn made into monthly summaries to allow scientists and others to look for trends or weather events over longer periods of time. Weather data is taken with this protocol (following the same procedure) all over the world. I followed Allisha Ochs, our Network Administrator, on her weather rounds one afternoon and was impressed with the amount of time, attention to detail and effort required! It is important that those who take the data become good enough at all the subjective estimates (% cloud cover and height, ice cover, etc.) that they are consistent from day to day and person to person. Cloud layer height can be made more accurate by comparing it to the mountains in the area with known heights. Some of the weather highlights from my time here are a high temperature in March of 10 C and a low of -6 C. March 2000 had 20 days with some type of precipitation, 22 overcast days and 2 clear days. Fairly good weather! Answer 64: No, Antarctica's humpback whales swim north along the west and east coasts of South America to subtropical wintering areas, while Alaska's humpback whales travel to Hawaii in the northern hemisphere's winter (as do many human Alaskans). The two populations are wintering at different times and don't meet. Feeding habits are also different. Antarctica's humpbacks feed solely on krill (up to 2 tons a day!), while our humpbacks feed mostly on fish like herring, capelin, and sand lance.

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