Officer forecasts from the South Pole

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Peter Croce (author)

Location(s): Casey Station, Antartica

Lieutenant Wade Lamberth and fellow Meteorologist Graham Oakley. (photo: Unknown)
Lieutenant Wade Lamberth and fellow Meteorologist Graham Oakley.

Lieutenant Wade Lamberth has been braving blizzards, ice and freezing conditions while plying his professional skills as the Royal Australian Navy's deployed meteorology officer in Antarctica.

The warfare officer who specialises in weather forecasting, hails from Rainbow Beach in Queensland and deployed to the South Pole late in 2015, wrapping up his tasking in the frozen continent earlier this month. 

He said the highly sought after Australian Antarctic Division role to support Australian researchers, mainly based at Davis Station, took his Navy skills to the extreme in one of the world's most remote areas.

"As a meteorologist, this job is awesome and certainly my time and experiences here will remain with me for the rest of my life,” Lieutenant Lamberth said. 

“You get everything from beautiful crystal clear days where the icebergs are glistening out in the bay, to a few days later when the wind is quite exfoliating, the snow is blinding and the only thing you can do is huddle in the mess to stay warm.

"My job is to ensure I give the people working here the best possible indication of what the upcoming weather will be. 

“The weather can change so quickly down here, so whether for field parties, scientific research or aviation, it's critical they all know what the weather will do - I usually get it right!"

The Navy officer explained his usual day in the office included reviewing satellite imagery, taking observations from automatic weather stations and a twice daily weather balloon flight. 

Once the weather balloon responded with the atmospheric temperature data, he is able to combine the information with model data and knowledge of localised effects to generate a forecast. 

He said the Australians were highly regarded and are able to provide a confident forecast out to four days. 

“The team places a lot of faith in you to get the forecast correct,” he said. 

“There are projects that are really time critical, so it can be vital to ensure a weather window isn't missed, or that they won't be hit by a blizzard. 

“It's so isolated and the weather can be so extreme, I'm not exaggerating when I say if I get the forecast wrong people may find themselves in a life-threatening situation. 

“But I enjoy the challenge, taking that pressure and using it to focus and push yourself - it's something my time as a Maritime Warfare Officer taught me.”

Lieutenant Lamberth deployed for five months and said he specialised in meteorology after consolidating his training as Maritime Warfare Officer which involves “driving the ship” on behalf of the captain.

“Being at sea is an amazing experience but not so enjoyable when the weather has closed in and swell is rolling through. 

“My interest in forecasting came about as a result of that relationship between how we do our job at sea and the weather impact it has on us.

“It's an interesting job that has taken me from compiling the information on weather forecasts for land forces in the Middle East to Navy ships in waters around Australia,” he said. 

On return to Australia, Lieutenant Lamberth took some well earned leave, a highlight being a long-awaited reunion with his beloved dog and taking up the opportunity to wear "boardies and a t-shirt" without the fear of hypothermia. 

Away from the spectacular highlights, he rates being away for so long from family and friends a close second to missing out on Star Wars Episode VII as the only downside to this job of a lifetime.