A Case Study of Katabatic Flow on the South Polar Plateau

  1. Morton J. Rubin
  1. Heinz H. Lettau

Published Online: 14 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/AR009p0001

Studies in Antarctic Meteorology

Studies in Antarctic Meteorology

How to Cite

Lettau, H. H. (1966) A Case Study of Katabatic Flow on the South Polar Plateau, in Studies in Antarctic Meteorology (ed M. J. Rubin), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/AR009p0001

Author Information

  1. University of Wisconsin, Madison

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1966

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875901091

Online ISBN: 9781118664445



  • Amundsen-Scott station;
  • Data analysis;
  • Katabatic flow;
  • Micrometeorological wind and temperature profile data;
  • Observational data;
  • Prandtl's theory;
  • South polar plateau;
  • Surface layer structure


Micrometeorological wind and temperature profile data obtained by Dalrymple at Amundsen-Scott station during 1958 indicate that katabatic flow on the gently sloping central Antarctic Plateau can occur, but that it is an extremely rare phenomenon. An interesting case of katabatic flow structure (with the speed maximum at about 4 meters above ground level) on September 17, 1958, is discussed and analyzed. Hourly means of low-level wind and temperature profiles were found to correspond, at a surprisingly close degree, with distributions predicted by Prandtl's elementary theory of steady katabatic winds. The surface energy budget under katabatic flow conditions is investigated. There are indications of an inherent instability of this flow type. The breakdown of katabatic flow structure was found to be accompanied by an abrupt temperature decrease (of about 4°C) in the air layer from 2 to 8 meters above the ground. It is shown that the probable cause of such abrupt changes in air temperature (decreases as well as, on other occasions, increases) is a local mesoscale convergence (or divergence) in the low-level wind field, and the resulting vertical advection of heat.