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Observing the Arctic


  • Worldwide there are several hundred surface weather stations located above the Arctic Antarctic Circles. Most are automated and transmit real-time or near-real-time (hourly) weather data. In addition, there are roughly 100 upper air stations in the high latitudes, sending weather balloons aloft at least once or twice a day to give us insight on temperatures and winds aloft. (See
  • White at lower latitudes a polar orbiting satellite may only scan a given location once or twice a day, because they orbit directly over the poles these same satellites visit each pole about 14 times per day. Basically, this means that the Arctic and Antarctic have more current satellite imagery than most of the rest of the planet.

Climatology and adverse conditions


  • We all know that at the poles there are 6 months of perpetual day and 6 months of perpetual night. But that's only at the poles. At the Arctic and Antarctic circles, the Sun will sit just below the horizon for all 24 hours only on the respective winter solstice, thereafter making an ever longer appearance above the horizon until it provides 12 hrs of day on the equinoxes and a full 24 hours of daylight on the summer solstice.
  • The snow and frozen ground also mean that heat is continually withdrawn from the air in an attempt to melt the ice. Given the cold conditions, it is no surprise that, in general, the air can hold very little moisture. As a result, the region is classified as arid, and places such as the ice-covered interior Arctic and Antarctic are actually considered deserts, receiving fewer than 10 inches of precipitation a year.


Shein, Karsten, "Arctic Operations," Professional Pilot, Nov 2012

Revision: 20121201