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 14, 2001
Latitude: 15º S
Longitude: 89º W
Air Temp: 19.2.0º C
Sea Temp: 19.3º C
Sea Wave: 2 – 4 ft.
Swell Wave: 4 – 5 ft.
Visibility: 8 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8
Wes Atkins & Robert Schaaf- Weather Balloons, University of Washington
Wes and Robert study the atmosphere. To do this they send up a big helium balloon that has a small box dangling from a string. In the box has an antenna that can communicate with up to 8 satellites, and several sensors that measure things like temperature, pressure, and moisture. The fancy name for this balloon and sensor package is called a radiosonde. The information that comes back to their computers is called an upper-air sounding. The data is graphed to show what’s going on in that atmosphere, on that day, in that location. Wes and Robert are part of a team that launches balloons every 3 hours! The idea is that the more data they collect the more accurate their “profile” or picture of the atmosphere will be. Also, they look for changes in the atmosphere as the ship moves along its track.
Another thing Wes and Robert are also interested in the sizes of raindrops. Have you ever been out in a light, misty rain? Compare that feeling to the big fat raindrops during a thunderstorm. What makes some rain drops tiny and some raindrops really big? For this experiment they use a special paper soaked in a chemical called “meth blue”. They put this out for a short period of time in a plastic tub. When the rain falls on the blue paper it leaves a mark which can be measured using a special tool – like a round ruler. They examine the sizes of the drops to learn about the clouds from which they came.
As you can tell from the data above, the sea is remaining pretty calm. The weather changes constantly from windy and gray to bright and clear. Every half hour is different. Today I saw a beautiful rainbow off in the distance.J (No pot of gold though.L) Still haven’t seen any other ships out here. We are very much alone at sea. This suits some people on board just fine. The crew (meaning the people who work on the boat all year long) really enjoy the solitude. They generally get news via email and whenever the ship puts into port, which can be anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. That’s a long time to go without hearing from your loved ones! There is a phone on board, but it costs $10 for just 3 minutes! There isn’t any TV on board but they do show 2 videos every night on a big screen in the lounge. There is a store on the ship where you can buy popcorn and candybars for the movie. Dinner is served really early (by my clock anyway) at 4:30! The kitchen closes by 5:30 so you better get your food by then or your on your own. The food is excellent, with a printed menu each day. I think the hardest working people onboard are the cooks! Can you imagine serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 50 people everyday? And they give us lots of choices too. Tonight we could choose from a complete turkey dinner (just like on Thanksgiving), Italian spaghetti with sausages, or salmon loaf.
Question of the day: How do updrafts affect the size of a raindrop? Do you think the size changes? If so, which way?
Keep in touch,