Stormy Weather

Photos from UAB in Antarctica group on Flickr, related to this post
By Chuck
Posted on 03/08/07

Don’t know why, there’s no sun up in the sky… 

I have no intention of trying to outdo Maggie with lyrics, but the old song “Stormy Weather” written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and performed by countless artists sure comes to mind this morning.

When I went to bed late last night I expected to be diving this morning, not sitting at my computer. It had been windy in the morning but it laid down and was a beautiful afternoon (albeit with a fairly substantial wave swell which limited where we could safely dive).  It seemed as if the good weather would hold for a while.

That was not to be. I woke up for a few minutes around 5:00 and did not have to even look out the window to know that diving wasn’t likely. I’m the Station Science Leader this season and that means that I have a little bigger dorm room than others. The room is located at the front of the Bio Lab building (more on the different buildings on station in future posts) and the station flag poles are right outside my window. When it is windy, they make a lot of noise.

I could tell from the sound of the flags and the wind that although it wasn’t a big storm, it was enough that boating (and, therefore, diving) was not likely to be pleasant. The winds have only been averaging about 20 knots, which is the point at which most boating is not allowed (if a boat is already out, it is not ordered back until the winds average 25 knots but you cannot leave station with winds at or above 20 knots).

Although this morning’s weather is “just” marginal in terms of wind speed, the winds are coming out of the west. Anvers Island, where the station is, lies off the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula. And the station is on the southwest corner of Anvers Island. There is nothing to the west of us all to block the winds or seas, so when the winds are blowing from the west the seas are much worse than they would be with comparable winds from most other directions.

It is also raining off and on this morning. That isn’t a big deal for the divers, particularly once they are in the water, but it makes tending (i.e., sitting in the boat while the divers are down) not so fun. That is especially so when it is also windy and the boat is bumping up and down in moderately strong waves.

After one has spent some time here, particularly if your work depends on being able to get out in the field, most of us become amateur meteorologists.  Palmer has a an automated weather station that was new 5 or 6 years ago. The sensors are located on Gamage Point, just a stone’s throw (literally) from the station (although with the wind this morning coming from that direction, maybe not such an easy throw!).

The room where the weather station instrument displays are located is often a hub of activity around breakfast time when people are planning their days. In addition to local conditions such as wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and barometric pressure, there are weather satellite images and maps with lines showing the patterns in barometric pressure over and around Antarctica. If the lines (“isobars”) on the barometric pressure display are close together, that can mean high winds. They sure mean that today, as you can see in some of the images on Flickr.

So stormy weather it is for today I guess. We are always hopeful that things will calm down and we may get lucky enough to get out diving this afternoon. But I noticed that iTunes has 192 recordings of “Stormy Weather” and that the vast majority of them are the song written by Arlen and Koehler. Seems as if there is lots of stormy weather to go around.

 

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