Kirk Beckendorf, July 28, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 28, 2004

Daily Log

How do you decide where to fly to find and measure pollution?

I spent today at the NEAQS Operation Center at Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth. The Op Center is the temporary “headquarters” for the air quality study. It is located in a college campus. About 15 large classrooms are being used as group offices for the approximately 100 scientists. I arrived just in time for the morning DC-8 briefing. The DC-8 is a NASA research plane which is loaded with equipment similar to what is on the RON BROWN. This morning about 20 scientists are planning tomorrow’s flight.

To begin the meeting several meteorologists showed some current weather movements and their predictions for tomorrow. Then the modelers who predict pollution motion and chemical changes explain what they expect to be happening to some pollution tomorrow. What this group plans to study tomorrow is a large bunch of pollution moving out of the New England and out across the Atlantic Ocean. About half way to Europe the pollution makes a large loop to the south and then loops back north. They want to fly through all of the pollution and see how the chemicals change as the pollution ages. There are three satellites that will be passing overhead at specific times and they want to be under them. So they have to time their flight schedule accordingly. Once everyone is on the same page of the general plan, they start planning the actual flight. The main idea is to fly out over the Atlantic following the looping band of pollution. At several points they want to spiral up and down to take measurements close to the ocean surface all of the way to the top of the pollution.

With a computer image of the NE US and the N. Atlantic being projected onto a screen, one of the scientists begins to type in a flight plan, as he types in latitudes and longitudes the route shows up on the map. As the route is being plotted, there continues to be discussion about where they should go to get the best measurements. Because of the points brought up in the discussion, the route and where they will spiral up and down are changed a number of times. Finally they have a flight plan. However, it is about an hour longer than they should be in the air. So the route is modified and remodified a number of times, until everyone feels that they will be able to make the measurements needed, and still have enough fuel to get back.

Question of the Day

What is your latitude and longitude?

The pollution being sampled by the DC-8 is also being measured in the Azores? Where and what are the Azores?

 

Kirk Beckendorf, July 27, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 27, 2004

Daily Log

Jim Koermer invited me to come up today and “work” a session with him. Jim is a Professor of Meteorology at Plymouth State in Plymouth, New Hampshire. During NEAQS he is responsible for providing the scientist on the BROWN twice daily forecast of the weather conditions. Yesterday evening I drove the 2 hours to Plymouth and went to Jim’s house. After a short visit with Jim and his wife it was about 9:00 PM. It was time for a nap, only a nap because his work session today started at midnight.

One of Jim’s students had worked the previous session. After we arrived he gave Jim a brief summary of what he had been doing. Rachel, another of Jim’s students soon joined us and she went to work immediately gathering some of the data necessary to make the forecast.

Along one wall of the long room, where they build the forecast, is a bank of 34 displays each continually updating satellite images, radars, computer models, webcams and other global and local weather information. On the desk are four computers which are used to gather other weather data and computer models which give real time, delayed time and computer models which predict general weather patterns.

Rachel and Jim are writing a very specific forecast for the area of the Gulf of Maine in the location of the BROWN. Their predictions give details such as wind speed and direction, air temperature, rainfall, cloud cover and where pollution will be starting from and then will move to. Even though they send the BROWN these predictions twice a day the forecast are for the next 48 hours, at six hour intervals. Until 6:00AM the two of them analyze the information from all of the different sources and then they hand draw some of the predictions on maps and type the rest. The drawn maps are scanned and merged with the typed predictions and the entire file is loaded to a website for the BROWN to access when it connects to the web by satellite at 7:00. You can see one of the hand drawn predictions in one of the pictures I sent in earlier from the BROWN.

The scientists on the BROWN will then use the predictions to determine what will be the best place for them to sample pollution. The BROWN does not travel very fast so plans have to be made ahead of time to catch certain pollution events.

You can also use a lot of the tools that Jim uses. His website is at http://vortex.plymouth.edu/

Question of the Day

What is a vortex?

Kathy Virdin, July 26, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 26, 2004

Latitude:55 degrees 17.192 minutes N.
Longitude: 160degrees 32.214 minutes W.
Visibility: 6 nautical miles
Wind direction: Light
Wind speed: Airs
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 0-1 ft.
Sea water temperature:10.6 C.
Sea level pressure:998.9 mb.
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed Nicola Samuelson, who is an ensign. Her job on the RAINIER is multi-faceted. She is responsible for the ship’s safety, must represent the Captain when he is not here, drive the ship from point A to B as assistant navigation officer, preparing the ship’s sail plan, and is also a morale officer, who plans activities for the crew when they are in port. She has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in ocean engineering. She works in four hour shifts and as an officer, may be on 24-hr. duty when the ship is in port. She chose this job because she enjoys the beautiful scenery, likes the important survey work they do, and enjoys working in a setting where you must bring a camera. She also has an interesting background that steered her in the direction of working for NOAA. She grew up on a sailing vessel as her parents sailed around the world. She was home schooled on the boat and sailed around the South Pacific from the time she was three years old until she was twelve years old. They would stop in various ports, such as New Caledonia, Fiji Islands, Samoa, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, New Guinea, and Thailand when they needed to pick up supplies or work for a while. She only lived on land for the first time when she was 17 years old. She grew up speaking English and French as her parents spoke both languages. Because of her upbringing, she knew she wanted a job where she would be on the ocean. After graduate school, she received three months of NOAA officer training, where she learned firefighting skills, first aid, navigation, and how to drive a ship. She feels that her job is extremely significant, since some of the waters in Alaska have never been surveyed.

Virdin 7-26-04 map

An area that the RAINIER just surveyed, that covered 30 miles by 50 miles only had about 5 depth soundings. Ships would have to go around that area, because it’s just too dangerous to navigate through without the true depth measurements on the charts. A ship needs 40 feet of water clearance below deck level in order to successfully navigate the waters. Lack of accurate charts means that cruise and cargo ships are limited in where they can sail in the Alaskan waters. Opening up new areas, because of their surveys, means NOAA is contributing toward improvement of safety, commerce and tourism.

Personal Log

We have learned today, that because of an oil leak, the RAINIER will go into port early. We’ll have an all hands on deck meeting this afternoon to find out the exact plans. It will be interesting to find our how a ship this size will handle repairs. The weather has turned off pretty this afternoon, so those of the crew who are not working have gone on deck to fish. They will pack their catches in ice to mail back to their families. Fishing in Alaska is some of the best in the world!

Kirk Beckendorf, July 26, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 26, 2004

Daily Log

This morning there was a big press conference at the BROWN. A lot of very important people were here. I got to meet the head of NOAA, Admiral Lautenbacher. I found out his wife is a middle school science teacher. Senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire was also here. Since the BROWN is sailing out today everyone who will be out on the second leg of the research cruise had to be on board at 1:00. I took some pictures of Kevin as he boarded. This time as the BROWN pulled away from the docks, went under the drawbridge and headed out of port I was standing on shore taking pictures and waving to those on the ship. Three weeks ago I was the one standing on the ship deck waving to those still on shore. I’ll sure miss being out there. I just hope they don’t have fog all of the time.

Kathy Virdin, July 25, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 25, 2004

Latitude:55degrees 17.215 N.
Longitude: 160 degrees 32.231 W.
Visibility:1 nautical mile
Wind direction:140 degrees
Wind speed: 10 kts.
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Sea water temperature:10 degrees C.
Sea level pressure: 997.4 mb.
Cloud cover:Cloudy, light rain

Science and Technology Log

Today we had a visitor from Tenix Lads, Inc. named Mark Sinclair who does LiDAR depth readings for NOAA. LiDAR means light detection and ranging. It is done from a small aircraft, flying at an altitude of 1800-2200 ft. They over fly an area with two laser beams that measure the surface of the water and the depth of the water. They get the difference in these heights, with geometric corrections for tides and other factors, to give them the ocean floor depths. They are able to take an incredible 324 million soundings in an hour! Their information is used for nautical charting, coastal zone management, coastal engineering, oil and gas development, military applications and research and development. They will identify depths, buoys, beacons, lighthouses, kelp areas on digital display (via computers) and on spreadsheets. The benefits of the LiDAR technology is that it is very cost effective, has amazing speed, and greater safety. They do 200% coverage of an area by measuring lines and then taking new lines in between the first lines. They run a swath beam that is 192 meters, which is larger than the ones that the RAINIER does. Each beam of pulsar light is 15 meters with 4 meters in between.

They are finding changes that need to be made on maps that date back to the 1940s. NOAA contracts with this company to do soundings for them and NOAA picks small segments of these areas to do spot checks with the ship to compare accuracy. So far, they have been extremely accurate. At this point in time, they are not comfortable with the greater depth measurements that the RAINIER does, but expect that to change in the future. Various crew members that I’ve spoken with foresee this becoming the depth measurement instrument of the future. Eventually, all depth readings may be done from satellites, which could become very accurate, as well as safe. Right now, NOAA will continue to use both methods.

Personal Log

I spent the day working on the computer, listening to the LiDAR presentation and reading the information about this new system. It’s very interesting to predict how useful this will become in the next 10-20 years. I’d love to see some of my students flying the airplanes that will send back this newer technology. Right now, the RAINIER is anchored while launches go out to do shallow survey each day. It’s fascinating to watch them lower the launches and bring them back onto the boat. They use hydraulic winches that raise and lower the boats. Everyone has to be very careful at this point, wearing hard hats, because it’s a time when equipment failure could bring a dangerous situation. Generally three or four people go out on each day’s launch. They have several more days of launches scheduled, then they must go to the Kodiak Coast Guard base to refuel.

Virdin 7-25-04 screenshot

Kirk Beckendorf, July 25, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 25, 2004

Daily Log

There was a big open house on the BROWN, so I went back to the ship for that. This evening for dinner Kevin and I meet with a group of teachers who were interested to know what it is like to be a Teacher at Sea. I will be visiting some of the land based parts of NEAQS this week so I met and visited with some of the people that I will be seeing. I scheduled a time with Jim Koermer a meteorologist at Plymouth State University. He is the scientist in charge of developing weather predictions received twice daily by the BROWN. I will go to Plymouth, New Hampshire on Monday evening. From midnight until 6:00 AM I will be watch how he makes his predictions.

Kathy Virdin, July 24, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 24, 2004

Latitude: 55 degrees 17.194 N.
Longitude: 160 degrees 32.23 W.
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 100 degrees
Wind speed: 10 kts.
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Sea water temperature: 10 degrees C.
Sea level pressure: 1002.0
Cloud cover: Cloudy with rain

Science and Technology Log

Today we went out on a launch (my first in the Shumagin Islands). We traveled near the area of Simeon Bight to run lines to check depth measurement. An example of why this is so important is that in one of their launches, they found after an earthquake, a 30 meter drop-off near a fault line. This wasn’t on any charts because it had been caused by the earthquake itself. Before they begin the depth measurements, it’s vital that they take a cast with the salinity, pressure and temperature instrument. This information is then hooked directly into the computer to be calculated into the depth findings, so that the depth can be corrected by these factors. We ran cross lines (lines that cris-crossed each other) as a quality check to be sure that no area had been missed. The transducer (which sends out a multi-beam swath of sound) is lowered into the water by a mechanical arm. This is high-tech stuff! The computers are also recording the GPS (global position system) location of our boat at all times. When we learn the depths of the waters we pass over, we have to know exactly where we are in order to record this on nautical charts. Out of 24 satellites, we need at least 5-7 within range plotting our location to ensure accuracy. The computers divide the screen into sections which show our depth reading, a picture of the ocean floor by sonar calculations and the range our instruments will accurately reflect. We have traveled a range of 88 meters in depth to 6.7 meters in depth. Interestingly, one possible technology that is being tested and may be the best method of the future is called Lidar, which means sonar transmitted from an airplane, which flies over coastal areas and can give a depth reading on land and in the ocean. The RAINIER is testing one area that has been measured by Lidar to compare our measurements with theirs to check their accuracy. This would be a safer method, since lowering the launch boats and retrieving them has a certain amount of risk.

We’ve just seen some lazy puffins that are swimming on top of the water, which makes them look like sitting ducks. As we return to the RAINIER in the late afternoon, we bring back a lot of data that the survey technicians will assess and correct to be submitted to the cartographers.

Personal Log

We had a rainy, foggy afternoon on the water while we were surveying, with clouds that hovered over the green, craggy cliffs. It makes a beautiful sight. We felt we got a lot accomplished and returned with some good data. In talking with various members of the crew, I’ve gotten some good ideas to use in my lesson plans as they help me think of ways to explain their operations that will simplify it, such as flashlights taped together to represent a multi-beam sonar swath. I’m going to catch up tonight on correspondence, and refine my lesson plan ideas tomorrow. I can’t wait to take all these ideas back to the classroom!