Average Weather in McMurdo Station Antarctica
In McMurdo Station, the summers are short and freezing; the winters are long, frigid, dry, and windy; and it is partly cloudy year round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from -18°F to 33°F and is rarely below -30°F or above 38°F.
The warm season lasts for 2.5 months, from November 22 to February 7, with an average daily high temperature above 24°F. The hottest day of the year is January 5, with an average high of 33°F and low of 25°F.
The cold season lasts for 5.3 months, from April 18 to September 28, with an average daily high temperature below -1°F. The coldest day of the year is August 11, with an average low of -18°F and high of -9°F.
Average High and Low Temperature
The figure below shows you a compact characterization of the entire year of hourly average temperatures. The horizontal axis is the day of the year, the vertical axis is the hour of the day, and the color is the average temperature for that hour and day.
Average Hourly Temperature
frigid 15°F freezing 32°F very cold 45°F cold 55°F cool 65°F comfortable 75°F warm 85°F hot 95°F sweltering
Barrow, Alaska, United States (10,421 miles away); Clyde River, Canada (11,346 miles); and Tiksi, Russia (10,455 miles) are the far-away foreign places with temperatures most similar to McMurdo Station (view comparison).
In McMurdo Station, the average percentage of the sky covered by clouds experiences significant seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The clearer part of the year in McMurdo Station begins around October 18 and lasts for 6.0 months, ending around April 18. On December 14, the clearest day of the year, the sky is clear, mostly clear, or partly cloudy 58% of the time, and overcast or mostly cloudy 42% of the time.
The cloudier part of the year begins around April 18 and lasts for 6.0 months, ending around October 18. On August 5, the cloudiest day of the year, the sky is overcast or mostly cloudy 70% of the time, and clear, mostly clear, or partly cloudy 30% of the time.
Cloud Cover Categories
0% clear 20% mostly clear 40% partly cloudy 60% mostly cloudy 80% overcast 100%
McMurdo Station does not experience significant seasonal variation in the frequency of wet days (i.e., those with greater than 0.04 inches of liquid or liquid-equivalent precipitation). The frequency ranges from 0% to 3%, with an average value of 1%.
Among wet days, we distinguish between those that experience rain alone, snow alone, or a mixture of the two. Based on this categorization, the most common form of precipitation throughout the year is snow alone, with a peak probability of 3% on February 9.
Daily Chance of Precipitation
The sliding 31-day liquid-equivalent quantity of snowfall in McMurdo Station does not vary significantly over the course of the year, staying within 0.0 inches of 0.1 inches throughout.
Average Liquid-Equivalent Monthly Snowfall
Due to its extreme latitude, McMurdo Station experiences polar day (also known as the midnight Sun) during the summer and polar night during the winter. These are periods of time in which the sun is continuously above or below the horizon for more than one day. The precise start and end dates of polar day and night vary from year to year and depend on the precise location and elevation of the observer, and the local topography.
In the summer in McMurdo Station during 2021, the Sun is continuously above the horizon for 3.9 months, rising at 2:03 AM on October 23, and not setting again until 1:21 AM on February 20.
In the winter in McMurdo Station during 2021, the Sun is continuously below the horizon for 3.8 months, setting at 1:21 PM on April 24, and not rising again until 12:12 PM on August 19.
Hours of Daylight and Twilight
Daylight saving time (DST) is observed in McMurdo Station during 2021, starting in the spring on September 26 and ending in the fall on April 4.
Sunrise & Sunset with Twilight and Daylight Saving Time
The figure below presents a compact representation of key lunar data for 2021. The horizontal axis is the day, the vertical axis is the hour of the day, and the colored areas indicate when the moon is above the horizon. The vertical gray bars (new Moons) and blue bars (full Moons) indicate key Moon phases.
Moon Rise, Set & Phases
We base the humidity comfort level on the dew point, as it determines whether perspiration will evaporate from the skin, thereby cooling the body. Lower dew points feel drier and higher dew points feel more humid. Unlike temperature, which typically varies significantly between night and day, dew point tends to change more slowly, so while the temperature may drop at night, a muggy day is typically followed by a muggy night.
The perceived humidity level in McMurdo Station, as measured by the percentage of time in which the humidity comfort level is muggy, oppressive, or miserable, does not vary significantly over the course of the year, remaining a virtually constant 0% throughout.
Humidity Comfort Levels
dry 55°F comfortable 60°F humid 65°F muggy 70°F oppressive 75°F miserable
This section discusses the wide-area hourly average wind vector (speed and direction) at 10 meters above the ground. The wind experienced at any given location is highly dependent on local topography and other factors, and instantaneous wind speed and direction vary more widely than hourly averages.
The average hourly wind speed in McMurdo Station experiences significant seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The windier part of the year lasts for 7.4 months, from March 25 to November 6, with average wind speeds of more than 11.3 miles per hour. The windiest day of the year is June 2, with an average hourly wind speed of 15.0 miles per hour.
The calmer time of year lasts for 4.6 months, from November 6 to March 25. The calmest day of the year is December 30, with an average hourly wind speed of 7.6 miles per hour.
Average Wind Speed
The predominant average hourly wind direction in McMurdo Station is from the south throughout the year.
McMurdo Station is located near a large body of water (e.g., ocean, sea, or large lake). This section reports on the wide-area average surface temperature of that water.
The average water temperature does not vary significantly over the course of the year, remaining within 1°F of 30°F throughout.
Average Water Temperature
Best Time of Year to Visit
To characterize how pleasant the weather is in McMurdo Station throughout the year, we compute two travel scores.
The tourism score favors clear, rainless days with perceived temperatures between 65°F and 80°F.
The beach/pool score favors clear, rainless days with perceived temperatures between 75°F and 90°F.
For each hour between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM of each day in the analysis period (1980 to 2016), independent scores are computed for perceived temperature, cloud cover, and total precipitation. Those scores are combined into a single hourly composite score, which is then aggregated into days, averaged over all the years in the analysis period, and smoothed.
Our cloud cover score is 10 for fully clear skies, falling linearly to 9 for mostly clear skies, and to 1 for fully overcast skies.
Our precipitation score, which is based on the three-hour precipitation centered on the hour in question, is 10 for no precipitation, falling linearly to 9 for trace precipitation, and to 0 for 0.04 inches of precipitation or more.
Our tourism temperature score is 0 for perceived temperatures below 50°F, rising linearly to 9 for 65°F, to 10 for 75°F, falling linearly to 9 for 80°F, and to 1 for 90°F or hotter.
Our beach/pool temperature score is 0 for perceived temperatures below 65°F, rising linearly to 9 for 75°F, to 10 for 82°F, falling linearly to 9 for 90°F, and to 1 for 100°F or hotter.
Definitions of the growing season vary throughout the world, but for the purposes of this report, we define it as the longest continuous period of non-freezing temperatures (≥ 32°F) in the year (the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere, or from July 1 until June 30 in the Southern Hemisphere).
Temperatures in McMurdo Station are sufficiently cold year round that it is not entirely meaningful to discuss the growing season in these terms. We nevertheless include the chart below as an illustration of the distribution of temperatures experienced throughout the year.
Time Spent in Various Temperature Bands and the Growing Season
frigid 15°F freezing 32°F very cold 45°F cold 55°F cool 65°F comfortable 75°F warm 85°F hot 95°F sweltering
Growing degree days are a measure of yearly heat accumulation used to predict plant and animal development, and defined as the integral of warmth above a base temperature, discarding any excess above a maximum temperature. In this report, we use a base of 50°F and a cap of 86°F.
Growing Degree Days
This section discusses the total daily incident shortwave solar energy reaching the surface of the ground over a wide area, taking full account of seasonal variations in the length of the day, the elevation of the Sun above the horizon, and absorption by clouds and other atmospheric constituents. Shortwave radiation includes visible light and ultraviolet radiation.
The average daily incident shortwave solar energy experiences extreme seasonal variation over the course of the year.
The brighter period of the year lasts for 2.2 months, from November 18 to January 23, with an average daily incident shortwave energy per square meter above 6.8 kWh. The brightest day of the year is December 19, with an average of 8.5 kWh.
The darker period of the year lasts for 6.5 months, from March 14 to September 30, with an average daily incident shortwave energy per square meter below 1.7 kWh. The darkest day of the year is May 11, with an average of 0.0 kWh.
Average Daily Incident Shortwave Solar Energy
For the purposes of this report, the geographical coordinates of McMurdo Station are -77.846 deg latitude, 166.676 deg longitude, and 446 ft elevation.
The topography within 2 miles of McMurdo Station contains very significant variations in elevation, with a maximum elevation change of 965 feet and an average elevation above sea level of 214 feet. Within 10 miles also contains very significant variations in elevation (1,342 feet). Within 50 miles contains very significant variations in elevation (12,244 feet).
The area within 2 miles of McMurdo Station is covered by artificial surfaces (0%), within 10 miles by artificial surfaces (0%), and within 50 miles by artificial surfaces (0%).
This report illustrates the typical weather in McMurdo Station, based on a statistical analysis of historical hourly weather reports and model reconstructions from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 2016.
Temperature and Dew Point
There is only a single weather station, Williams Field, in our network suitable to be used as a proxy for the historical temperature and dew point records of McMurdo Station.
At a distance of 4 kilometers from McMurdo Station, closer than our threshold of 150 kilometers, this station is deemed sufficiently nearby to be relied upon as our primary source for temperature and dew point records.
The station records are corrected for the elevation difference between the station and McMurdo Station according to the International Standard Atmosphere , and by the relative change present in the MERRA-2 satellite-era reanalysis between the two locations.
Please note that the station records themselves may additionally have been back-filled using other nearby stations or the MERRA-2 reanalysis.
All data relating to the Sun's position (e.g., sunrise and sunset) are computed using astronomical formulas from the book, Astronomical Algorithms 2nd Edition , by Jean Meeus.
All other weather data, including cloud cover, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and solar flux, come from NASA's MERRA-2 Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis . This reanalysis combines a variety of wide-area measurements in a state-of-the-art global meteorological model to reconstruct the hourly history of weather throughout the world on a 50-kilometer grid.
Land Use data comes from the Global Land Cover SHARE database , published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Elevation data comes from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) , published by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Names, locations, and time zones of places and some airports come from the GeoNames Geographical Database .
Time zones for airports and weather stations are provided by AskGeo.com .
Maps are © Esri, with data from National Geographic, Esri, DeLorme, NAVTEQ, UNEP-WCMC, USGS, NASA, ESA, METI, NRCAN, GEBCO, NOAA, and iPC.
The information on this site is provided as is, without any assurances as to its accuracy or suitability for any purpose. Weather data is prone to errors, outages, and other defects. We assume no responsibility for any decisions made on the basis of the content presented on this site.
We draw particular cautious attention to our reliance on the MERRA-2 model-based reconstructions for a number of important data series. While having the tremendous advantages of temporal and spatial completeness, these reconstructions: (1) are based on computer models that may have model-based errors, (2) are coarsely sampled on a 50 km grid and are therefore unable to reconstruct the local variations of many microclimates, and (3) have particular difficulty with the weather in some coastal areas, especially small islands.
We further caution that our travel scores are only as good as the data that underpin them, that weather conditions at any given location and time are unpredictable and variable, and that the definition of the scores reflects a particular set of preferences that may not agree with those of any particular reader.