Outside weather at McMurdo and surrounding areas is designated by one of three conditions: Condition 3, 2, and 1. The designations are based on three variables: wind speed, visibility, and temperature. As these variables become more severe, the condition level changes.
The condition levels are specified for several locations, including McMurdo itself as well as surrounding locations (roads, sea ice, runways, etc). Weather is often significantly worse out on exposed areas like the airports and ridges.
Condition 3 is normal weather. “Reasonable” (for Antarctica) temperatures, low wind, high visibility. At condition 3, there are no travel or activity restrictions. It’s Condition 3 most of the time.
Condition 2 is moderately inclement weather. This means low temperatures, moderate wind, and moderate visibility. At Condition 2, there are restrictions on travel and activities – no outdoor recreation, restrictions on nonessential travel, etc. Condition 2 occurs intermittently. In the last ~month, we’ve had Condition 2 weather here in McMurdo three times.
Condition 1 is severe weather. Bitterly cold temperatures, high wind, and very low visibility. At Condition 1, you must remain in your current building or vehicle until the weather improves. Outdoor travel, even between buildings, is prohibited except in extraordinary circumstances. It must be preapproved and planned.
Current conditions are displayed on the local McMurdo Intranet:
McMurdo intranet, showing current weather conditions.
As well as on display boards around town. Here’s one in a work center:
And finally, for folks who have pagers, weather alerts are sent as silent pages:
Weather is colloquially referred to as “Con 3”, “Con 2”, and “Con 1”. As in – “let’s head to the galley before it hits Con 1” or “I don’t want to walk over, it’s Con 2 out”.
At Condition Two, winds are strong enough to push you around if you’re not careful. Also – the cold weather feels even worse when it flies at your face at 40mph.
Here’s what Condition Two looks like. First from the staircase between Building 120 and Building 155:
And from 155, heading toward the dorms:
Condition Two is a good time to hunker down and work on tasks that don’t require you to go outside. Even though you can walk between buildings for work, it’s certainly not enjoyable.
The strong winds that accompany Condition Two weather are often associated with drastic changes in temperature.
For example – the most recent Con 2 was followed by a beautiful day of “warm” spring weather (10°F above zero), low wind, and clear skies:
Until next time!