Ann to Antarctica: Weather delays flight
Every so often, Washington, D.C.'s weather proves to be a burden to day-to-day activities. But, when weather in Antarctica is bad, it can delay military jets carrying hundreds of scientists and personnel, as well as food, supplies and equipment to the ice for days.
This is what happened during our first attempt to depart Christchurch, New Zealand, for McMurdo Station, Antarctica yesterday. Currently, our team is awaiting another phone call letting us know if our flight will get underway in the next day. As of 10:00 p.m. New Zealand time, McMurdo Station had one mile of visibility, light snow falling and temperatures in the high 20s Fahrenheit. Even though these conditions may not seem bad considering current weather in the eastern United States, they are not ideal for a cargo jet landing on a landing strip of ice.
The weather around McMurdo can change quickly, so the five-hour flights from the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch are dependent on weather conditions in McMurdo. If weather is too severe as the jet approaches the "point of no return," the pilot "boomerangs" and returns to Christchurch. The boomerang record is seven times for one flight; luckily, our flight was delayed before we boarded.
The summer weather in and around Christchurch, which lies on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, is also quite variable. If a wind blows in from the northwest over the Southern Alps, it carries dry, warm air into the region. However, if an easterly wind blows in from the Pacific, it brings moist, cool air. Wind speed and direction, as well as temperature, can change quite rapidly. The locals are not kidding when they tell you to dress in layers ... for both New Zealand and Antarctic weather!
View the webcam and current conditions to stay up-to-date with weather at McMurdo.
CWG's Ann Posegate is part of a group of journalists selected by the National Science Foundation to travel to Antarctica and report on weather, climate and environmental science research going on there. Read more about Ann's trip and itinerary here.
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