The prime motivation for the AWARE Mission is to resume climatological field work, since there has been no substantial atmospheric science or climatological field work on West Antarctica since that started during the 1957 International Geophysical Year (and continued for just a few years afterward).

For several decades, direct meteorological information on the WAIS has been limited to a few automatic weather stations. And yet satellite imagery and meteorological reanalyses indicate that West Antarctica is highly susceptible to advection of warm and moist maritime air, with related cloud cover, depending on the location and strength of low pressure cells in the Amundsen, Ross, and Bellingshausen Seas. There is a need to quantify the role of these changing air masses on the surface energy balance, including all surface energy components and cloud radiative forcing.

Generally, global climate model simulations are known to perform poorly over the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and the marked scarcity of cloud information at Southern high latitudes has so far inhibited significant progress. Fortunately, McMurdo Station, where ARM’s most advanced cloud and aerosol instrumentation is situated, has a meteorological relationship with the WAIS via circulation patterns in the Ross and Amundsen Seas. Therefore, we gather sophisticated data with cloud radars and high spectral resolution lidar, and a complete aerosol suite, at McMurdo, that have relevance to the WAIS as well. At the same time, we send basic radiometric, surface energy balance, and upper air equipment directly to the WAIS to make the first well-calibrated climatological suite of measurements seen in this extremely remote, but globally critical region, in more than forty years.