Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Review article
01 Jun 2016
Review article |  | 01 Jun 2016

30 years of upper air soundings on board of R/V POLARSTERN

Amelie Driemel, Bernd Loose, Hannes Grobe, Rainer Sieger, and Gert König-Langlo

Abstract. The research vessel and supply icebreaker POLARSTERN is the flagship of the Alfred-Wegener-Institut in Bremerhaven (Germany) and one of the infrastructural pillars of German Antarctic research. Since its commissioning in 1982, POLARSTERN has conducted 30 campaigns to Antarctica (157 legs, mostly austral summer), and 29 to the Arctic (94 legs, northern summer). Usually, POLARSTERN is more than 300 days per year in operation and crosses the Atlantic Ocean in a meridional section twice a year. The first radiosonde on POLARSTERN was released on the 29 December 1982, 2 days after POLARSTERN started on its maiden voyage to the Antarctic. And these daily soundings have continued up to the present. Due to the fact that POLARSTERN has reliably and regularly been providing upper air observations from data sparse regions (oceans and polar regions), the radiosonde data are of special value for researchers and weather forecast services alike. In the course of 30 years (29 December 1982 to 25 November 2012) a total of 12 378 radiosonde balloons were started on POLARSTERN. All radiosonde data can now be found at König-Langlo (2015, doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.810000). Each data set contains the directly measured parameters air temperature, relative humidity and air pressure, and the derived altitude, wind direction and wind speed. 432 data sets additionally contain ozone measurements.

Although more sophisticated techniques (meteorological satellites, aircraft observation, remote-sensing systems, etc.) have nowadays become increasingly important, the high vertical resolution and quality of radiosonde data remains paramount for weather forecasts and modelling approaches.

Short summary
Since 1982-12-09 the icebreaker POLARSTERN is the flagship of German polar research. It has conducted 30 campaigns to Antarctica, and 29 to the Arctic. It is therefore the perfect basis for radiosonde launches in data-sparse regions (oceans and polar regions). Radiosondes are balloon-borne instruments which record atmospheric temperature, humidity and pressure. The data are used, e.g. for short and medium weather forecasts. In these 30 years, 12 378 radiosonde balloons were started on POLARSTERN.