Valley floor climate observations from the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, 1986-2000

TitleValley floor climate observations from the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, 1986-2000
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsDoran, PT, McKay, CP, Clow, GD, Dana, GL, Fountain, AG, Nylen, TH, W. Lyons, B
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Date Published12/2002
Type of ArticleJournal
Accession NumberLTER49856

Climate observations from the McMurdo dry valleys, East Antarctica are presented from a network of seven valley floor automatic meteorological stations during the period 1986 to 2000. Mean annual temperatures ranged from −14.8°C to −30.0°C, depending on the site and period of measurement. Mean annual relative humidity is generally highest near the coast. Mean annual wind speed increases with proximity to the polar plateau. Site-to-site variation in mean annual solar flux and PAR is due to exposure of each station and changes over time are likely related to changes in cloudiness. During the nonsummer months, strong katabatic winds are frequent at some sites and infrequent at others, creating large variation in mean annual temperature owing to the warming effect of the winds. Katabatic wind exposure appears to be controlled to a large degree by the presence of colder air in the region that collects at low points and keeps the warm less dense katabatic flow from the ground. The strong influence of katabatic winds makes prediction of relative mean annual temperature based on geographical position (elevation and distance from the coast) alone, not possible. During the summer months, onshore winds dominate and warm as they progress through the valleys creating a strong linear relationship (r2 = 0.992) of increasing potential temperature with distance from the coast (0.09°C km−1). In contrast to mean annual temperature, summer temperature lends itself quite well to model predictions, and is used to construct a statistical model for predicting summer dry valley temperatures at unmonitored sites.