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Antarctic clouds studied for first time in five decades

On Antarctica’s Ross Island, a short drive from the US McMurdo research station, high-tech radar antennas and other atmospheric instruments gaze skyward, gathering detailed measurements of West Antarctic clouds. Remarkably, these are the first such data to be gathered in five decades — even though weather patterns in the region can influence those half a world away.

The US$5-million project, known as the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement West Antarctic Radiation Experiment (AWARE), began to observe the skies near McMurdo in November and will run until early 2017. A second measurement station, 1,600 kilometres away in the ice sheet’s interior, will operate until the end of this month. The site is so remote that it can be used only during the Antarctic summer.

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