In Situ VTOL Drone-Borne Observations of Temperature and Relative Humidity over Dome C, Antarctica

Ricaud, Philippe ; Medina, Patrice ; Durand, Pierre ; Attié, Jean-Luc ; Bazile, Eric ; Grigioni, Paolo ; Guasta, Massimo Del ; Pauly, Benji

Année de publication
2023
Résumé
<p align=justify>The Antarctic atmosphere is rapidly changing, but there are few observations available in the interior of the continent to quantify this change due to few ground stations and satellite measurements. The Concordia station is located on the East Antarctic Plateau (75° S, 123° E, 3233 m above mean sea level), one of the driest and coldest places on Earth. Several remote sensing instruments are available at the station to probe the atmosphere, together with operational meteorological sensors. In order to observe in situ clouds, temperature, relative humidity and supercooled liquid water (SLW) at a high vertical resolution, a new project based on the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) vertical take-off and landing from the DeltaQuad Company has been set up at Concordia. A standard Vaisala pressure, temperature and relative humidity sensor was installed aboard the drone coupled to an Anasphere SLW sensor. A total of thirteen flights were conducted from 24 December 2022 to 17 January 2023: nine technology flights and four science flights (on 2, 10, 11 and 13 January 2023). Drone-based temperature and relative humidity profiles were compared to (1) the balloon-borne meteorological observations at 12:00 UTC, (2) the ground-based microwave radiometer HAMSTRAD and (3) the outputs from the numerical weather prediction models ARPEGE and AROME. No SLW clouds were present during the period of observations. Despite technical issues with drone operation due to the harsh environments encountered (altitude, temperature and geomagnetic field), the drone-based observations were consistent with the balloon-borne observations of temperature and relative humidity. The radiometer showed a systematic negative bias in temperature of 2 °C, and the two models were, in the lowermost troposphere, systematically warmer (by 2-4 °C) and moister (by 10-30%) than the drone-based observations. Our study shows the great potential of a drone to probe the Antarctic atmosphere in situ at very high vertical resolution (a few meters).</p>
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