Dana Tomlinson: Day 8, March 8, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Friday, March 8, 2002

Lat: 6.5°N
Long: 110°W
Seas: E/NE 2-5 ft.
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: partly, occasionally mostly, cloudy
Sea Surface Temp: 78-82°F
Winds: E/NE 10-15 knots
Air Temp: 83-74°F

Do you remember when I said yesterday that today was all about barnacles? Well, as my beloved husband (I miss you honey!) likes to say during a disagreement, “I wasn’t exactly correct.” Actually, tomorrow is barnacle day as we’ll be reaching the vicinity of our first buoy later this morning. The ship will do a deep CTD cast and then we’ll move into position at first light to start the buoy operations. That should be exciting.

So, today is all about weather balloons! Sergio Pezoa, an employee of Environmental Technology Laboratory working with NOAA, showed me the ins and outs of weather balloons. As of a few days ago, Sergio has been deploying the balloons every 6 hours starting at 0Z (zero Zulu or GMT time), five times a day. The purpose of the weather balloons is to collect data (air pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed and direction) in this El Niño zone, as one more measure that, all together, scientists look at to try to predict the El Niño condition. The weather balloons have two parts: the actual balloon that is filled with helium (it is much bigger than I expected it would be – almost the diameter of a child’s swimming pool) and the radiosonde. The radiosonde is the transmitter portion that is the communication device that transmits the data from satellites to the ship’s computer. It is battery powered with a charge that lasts about 3 hours. The balloon will burst before that and fall to the sea, already having sent its important information to earth. And, believe it or not, the entire thing, from balloon to string to transmitter to battery is ALL biodegradable. Amazing. I really enjoyed deploying it, too. When I let go, the balloon and radiosonde burst out of my hands, when I expected them just to fly away. It was lovely watching them sail, literally, into the sunset.

Question of the Day: 

You knew this was coming, huh? Above, I mentioned Zulu time or GMT. What is GMT and if it’s 9:00pm here in Mountain Time, what time is that Zulu or GMT?

Answer of the Day: 

Congrats to the folks who realized I spelled thermocline incorrectly (once again, I wasn’t exactly right!). Alyzza V. of San Diego was the first to tell me that thermocline is the layer in the ocean that separates the warm upper layers that are oxygen-rich from the cold lower layers of the ocean that are oxygen-poor. Important to this ship’s research since warm waters are what El Niño is all about!

Til tomorrow
🙂 Dana

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