Variability of precipitation over the coastal western Antarctic Peninsula from synoptic observations


  • J. Turner,

  • S. R. Colwell,

  • S. Harangozo


Observations of precipitation events at Faraday and Rothera Stations are analyzed to investigate the spatial and temporal variability of precipitation along the western coastal (Pacific) side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The record of observations made at Faraday since 1956 show a statistically significant increase in the number of winter-season precipitation events. During this season, there are now, on the average, almost 50% more reports of precipitation than during the 1950s. On a year-to-year basis the number of precipitation events is not correlated with the mean surface temperature on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula but is dependent on synoptic weather system activity. The annual total number of precipitation events at Rothera is also increasing, but because the length of the record is relatively short, this is not statistically significant. The semiannual cycle in the latitudinal location and depth and position of the circumpolar trough is reproduced in the record of precipitation events at both Faraday and Rothera. It is argued that the systematic increase in the number of precipitation events at Faraday since the 1950s is associated with changes in the depression tracks across the Bellingshausen Sea, with an increase in the number of depressions approaching from outside the Antarctic rather than from the west.