NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 2 – 24, 2001
Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: October 11, 2001
Latitude: 4 ºS
Longitude: 95 ºW
Air Temp: 21.0 ºC
Sea Temp: 19.0 ºC
Sea Wave: 1 – 2 ft.
Swell Wave: 3 – 4 ft.
Visibility: 10 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8
Today I met with meteorologist Dr, Taneil Uttal from ETL (Environmental Technology Lab) in Boulder, Colorado. She is head of a group that has done cloud studies in the Arctic. On this trip one of the things Dr. Uttal wants to determine is how similar marine clouds are to Arctic clouds. To do this she and her associate Duane Hazen use radiometers and radar which are all packed into a trailer. The whole trailer is on the deck of the RON BROWN. Think of the trailer as a big package of instruments. Duane’s job is to keep the machinery running. In the photo you can see the radar antennae on top of the trailer. It is there to measure the electromagnetic radiation at a certain frequency.
Here is how Dr. Uttal explains what’s going on:
What is a cloud?
A cloud is gazillions of tiny water droplets or ice crystals floating together up in the sky. Some clouds make rain and snow. Some clouds do not. In EPIC we are looking at both kinds of clouds.
What is a Radiometer?
Think of a pokemon which has a special power that no other pokemon has. There are many things in the world around us that are just like that. For instance tiny droplets of water floating in the air are beaming certain energies that only water droplets have. If we know what the water droplet energy is like (and we do!), we can measure it and find out how much water there is in a cloud. A radiometer is a special instrument that we have here on the RON BROWN for measuring the special energy of a water droplet so we always know how much water is in the clouds over the ship. The energy of a water droplet can be named by how fast it is. A water droplet has three energies, 20 GHz, 32 GHz and 90 GHz. A GHz is 1,000,000,000 cycles per second.
What is a radar?
A radar is different from a radiometer because instead of looking for natural energy from something like a water droplet, it beams out its own energy, bounces it off of things in the sky (like water droplets in a cloud), and measures the reflected energy. By looking at the reflected energy, the radar can tell you things about a cloud that are different then what the radiometer tells you. It can tell you about how high a cloud is, how big the droplets are, and how fast the droplets are falling. The radar energy is 35 GHz.
What do you get when you look up with a radar and a radiometer?
When you put the data from a radar and radiometer together, you can figure out even more things, like how many cloud droplets there are, where the water is located in the cloud, and get an even better guess of how big the droplets are.
What does all this information tell you?
Right now people do not know very much about how clouds reflect sunlight from the sun, reflect warmth that is coming up from the earth, and change things like the temperature on the surface where we live. These things will change depending all the cloud height, how much water it has, how big the droplets are, and how fast they are falling. In EPIC, we want to know which kinds of clouds might make the ocean warmer, and which might make the ocean colder. This can have a big effect on where fish and other ocean animals might want to live and what kind of weather happens over the ocean.
Dr. Uttal is a scientist on board but she is also a mother and wife back in Colorado. Taniel and her husband Rusty, have 2 children – Kalvin, 6th grader at Baseline Middle School and Miranda, a 4th grader at Flatirons Elementary School.
Today I spent time on “the bridge” of the ship. This is the area that controls all the functions of the ship. The captain and his officers are responsible for all that goes on, much like the principal of the school is in charge. The best view can be had from the bridge and there are video cameras that look out over all the decks. The highlight was seeing a pod of porpoises swimming nearby. So graceful! I’m going to keep my eye out for whales.
Question of the Day: What is the fastest creature living in the sea?
Keep in touch,