Ground-based Automatic weather station (AWS), Radiosonde and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Masin twin-otter aircraft data were collected on and around the Antarctic Peninsula during the NERC-funded Orographic Flows and the Climate of the Antarctic Peninsula (OFCAP) project. The Antarctic Peninsula is currently one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Large environmental changes have occurred as a result of this warming, most notably the retreat and rapid disintegration of some of the floating ice shelves that fringe the Peninsula. Subsequent to the loss of ice shelves, glaciers draining the Peninsula ice sheet have accelerated, contributing to global sea level rise. The forces driving this rapid regional warming are not fully understood, but analysis of limited climatiological data from the region suggests a link between rapid summer warming on the eastern side of the Peninsula and an increase in the strength of the prevailing westerly winds. The strengthening of the westerlies has already been attributed, with some degree of confidence, to atmospheric circulation changes associated with anthropogenic forcing, particularly stratospheric ozone depletion and increases in greenhouse gases. It is thus highly probable that anthropogenic forcing is contributing to the rapid warming of the Peninsula.
The OFCAP project conducted an integrated programme of field observations, analysis and modelling aimed at understanding of how the westerly winds interact with the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula and how those interactions control the climate of the eastern side of the Peninsula. This dataset comprises of data from the month-long intensive field campaign which took place in January 2011. During this period, atmospheric flow along a transect across the Antarctic Peninsula mountains around 67 degrees south was observed using the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) MASIN- Twin-otter instrumented aircraft and automatic weather stations at Avery Plateau, Cole Peninsula and North Adelaide Island along the line of the transect. Atmospheric conditions on the upwind (western) and downwind (eastern) sides of the mountains were measured using balloon-borne radiosondes were released from the Larsen Ice shelf camp and Rothera base. These observations were then analysed in conjunction with the results of high-resolution atmospheric model simulations in order to obtain a more complete picture of the flow across the Peninsula.
OFCAP was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for three years from Sept 2009 (NERC Reference: NE/G014124/1).