BLOG POST: World Turned Upside Down – Antarctic Weather and Storms

This post was supposed to be part of my World Turned Upside Down blog tour, but I’m sharing it here instead! All of the photos below are ones taken by me at McMurdo Station in 2011.

Learn more about the book and view the other blog tour posts here!

Antarctica Storms

In a previous blog tour post I talked about the many (and I mean many) layers of clothing required to work and live in the coldest place on earth. But it’s not just the pure cold that can get to you. Storms also play a huge role in the day-to-day life of an Antarctic contractor or researcher.

Here’s a scene from World Turned Upside Down where the after-effects of a storm helps Simon to realize that he might actually have some feelings for Asher!

July began with two memorable occurrences.

First, another storm came through, blowing mountains of icy snow against all of the buildings. Simon got voluntold into shoveling the morning after and was assigned to Crary with a shovel and half a dozen hand-warmers. A few minutes into the backbreaking work, he was joined by a mountain in a red coat. Asher smiled from beneath his goggles and dove in to help Simon out.

The second thing that happened, tangentially related to the first, was that Simon realized he had actual, legit feelings for Asher.

It happened so suddenly that Simon didn’t even have a chance to freak out.

One minute they were shoveling out a loading bay, alternating between lifting and pushing the heavy snow to the side. Then Asher vanished for a second and came back with two steaming cups.

“Here,” he said. “Let’s take a break. I made some hot chocolate… just the powdered stuff, but we need the calories and it’ll help you warm up.”

Simon gratefully propped his shovel against the building, straightened, and took the offered cup. Asher had moved his snow goggles up to sit over his forehead, and his bright eyes crinkled as he smiled and Simon—

Simon felt something in his chest settle into place.

Despite the romantic idea of a blizzard helping our heroes to find true love (and obviously I would know nothing about that…), it doesn’t snow in Antarctica. At least, not the way most people understand snow. Antarctica is actually a desert, and the amount of precipitation the continent receives is minimal. Which doesn’t mean it never snows, just that the massive storms that sweep through McMurdo station and the other research bases are often more about kicking up already-existing snow and ice.

The U.S. Antarctic bases use Weather Conditions to describe the current storm activity:

  • Condition 3 is considered good/fair weather.
  • Condition 2 involves dangerous weather with lessening visibility and high winds.
  • Condition 1 is severe weather with <100 feet of visibility, extreme cold, and/or incredibly high winds.

This picture was taken during a Condition 2, when visibility began to drop.

Of course, Condition 1 is the worst level of storm an Antarctica resident can face. When a “Con 1” is called, everyone is confined to whatever building they’re currently in, and anyone outside must seek shelter immediately. You can actually see a few McMurdo residents testing out the ferociousness of a Con 1 storm in this YouTube video:

And, suffice it to say, in a place as cold and brutal as Antarctica can be, the weather doesn’t always contain itself to the outside!

World Turned Upside Down is out now, and I hope you’ll check it out and join Asher and Simon as they find love in one of the most remote and incredible places on Earth.