How cold was it there? That’s a question we get asked a lot and so being scientists, here are some data to ponder. We recorded indoor and outdoor temperature and windspeed (and a few other meteorological data types) using a consumer grade weather station (Ambient Weather Model WS-1002), which logged data to a micro SD card. Despite this being Antarctica, I was told by some scientists that the Whillans Ice Plain is where the weather in summer is Antarctica “lite” and the data show that to generally be the case as the outdoor temperature never dipped below 10ºF.
Wind speed recorded at Camp 20 and Camp Subglacial Lake Whillans during our survey. On the windiest days the gusts reached as high as 35-40 knots (40 to 46 mph). If you want to see what camp looks like at that wind speed, check out our videos on the main SALSA EM page here.
Indoor and outdoor temperature recorded at both camps. In the Main Tent indoor recording there are two daily high temperatures that occur during breakfast and dinner times. The Main Tent is a 10′ x 20′ Arctic Oven brand tent. On 12/13 we moved the indoor thermometer to Kerry’s North Face VE25 mountain tent, which had really nice green house effect where the sun’s UV rays penetrated through the tent’s thin yellow fabric and were then converted to warming infrared energy. This created temperatures as high as 80ºF at times, so despite this being Antarctica, is was actually quite comfortable inside the VE25 tent. In fact at times it was too warm given that we had sleeping bags rated to -40ºF. On 12/19 we moved the indoor thermometer to Matt’s “Scott” tent and you can see that it was generally about 10-20 degrees colder than Kerry’s VE25 mountain tent due to the Scott tent’s thick canvas walls not letting in enough light to get much warming from the greenhouse effect. In both Kerry and Matt’s tents, the highest temperatures are seen in the morning and the coldest temperatures were generally just prior to midnight. Although the sun never sets in the Antarctic summer, it does get lower in the sky in the evening, so some of this may be due to less solar radiation reaching the tent at night. But we also usually went to sleep around 11 PM to midnight, so some portion of the high temperature peaks after midnight may also be coming from body heat released as we slept.
Inside and outside temperature shown as a function of time of day at Camp 20. Here you can clearly see the two spikes when the indoor temperature in the Arctic Oven tent reached 70-80º F at breakfast and dinner times when we were boiling water and cooking. Outside, the daily temperature ranged from about 10-25ºF, with the high and low outside temperatures on a given day varying only by 5-10ºF on most days.