Kirk Beckendorf, July 31, 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 31, 2004

Daily Log

This will be my last day in New England with NEAQS-ITCT. Tomorrow morning I leave my hotel at 3:00 AM to drive to the airport to fly home to Oregon. The past month has been an amazing experience. I have been continually amazed at the complexity, cooperation and coordination involved in this massive air quality study. I have seen that the scientists are an extremely intelligent and hardworking group of men and women. They are truly committed to obtaining a thorough and accurate understanding of our global society’s air pollution problem so that solutions can be obtained.

Today Fred took me onto the WP-3, another of NOAA’s planes being used in NEAQS. Unlike the DC-3 which only has a LIDAR on board, the P3 is packed with many different scientific instruments. To be able to make as many measurements as possible, equipment is also attached underneath the wings, under the fuselage and even sticking out from the tail is a special cloud radar. The windows and body have been modified so that specially designed tubes stick out and suck air from the outside and feed it to the instruments inside the plane. Once we have climbed up the ladder and are inside, we can barely get passed the door.

In a couple of hours the P3 will take off for a night flight, but right now the plane is not only packed with the equipment, it is also packed with scientists making last minute adjustments to their instruments. Because there are so many air quality measurement instruments on board, there is very little room for people during the flight. Therefore the instruments need to be ready to run on their own with very little supervision.

Much of the equipment is similar to that found on the BROWN, but the plane will obviously be taking measurements higher in the atmosphere and over a larger area in a shorter amount of time, than can the BROWN. Also, because the plane is traveling a lot faster than the BROWN, if a measurement is made every 30 seconds and the P3 passes through a narrow plume of pollution the plume may not even be measured. It is therefore important for the measurements to be made very quickly and often.

The flight is intentionally leaving late in the day so that most of the flight will be after sunset. Sunlight is necessary for a lot of the chemical reactions that cause pollutants to change once they are in the air. Tonight’s flight is designed largely around a single instrument measuring the specific chemicals that are more likely to be in the atmosphere at night. During the day the sunlight breaks these chemicals down, yet they are a very important part of the pollution problem.

Since the beginning of July until about the end of August, for almost two months, the men and women involved in NEAQS will be making measurements from airplanes, from the BROWN, from satellites, from the top of Mt. Washington and other spots on land. But when I asked Fred what is the one thing my students should know about this project, he said that they need to realize that the real work starts after everyone is out of the field. The “Ah-ha” moments will occur over the next 8 -12 months as the data is being analyzed, that is when the real learning and understanding will happen.

Finally I would like to thank all of the scientists who were so generous, cooperative and patient with my many questions.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 30, 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 30, 2004

Daily Log

Besides the BROWN, the satellites, and the Airmap sites, there are thirteen different airplanes being used to collect air quality data for NEAQS. Several of these planes are currently flying out of Pease. Today, while the scientists and pilots were prepping the plane and the science instruments, I went on board the DC-3. The DC-3 is an airplane that is about 50 years old. The inside has been gutted and now there are just three seats, besides the two in the cockpit, and a LIDAR. The LIDAR is like the one that is on the BROWN but this one looks down, not up. It sends out a laser which can be used to determine the amount of ozone in the atmosphere below the plane. A large square hole, about 2 feet by two feet, has been cut through the bottom of the plane for the laser to shine down through and then for the light to bounce back into the instrument. The plane does not have a pressurized cabin so it is limited on how high it can fly. Most of the time during this flight, it will be at about 8000 ft. The DC-3 will also be flying slowly, about 100 miles per hour. This flight will take the crew and plane south and east and then out over the Atlantic, close to the BROWN.

This morning I talked to Fred . After we visited for a bit he recommended that I attend this afternoon’s planning meeting for tomorrow’s WP-3 flight. The meeting started at 5:30 with a brief discussion of the flight planned for tomorrow. Following that, in turn three of the scientists each explained to the rest of those attending the meeting what exactly each is studying and why. Remember the big elephant (from previous logs) that is being observed. Each scientist specializes on one very specific part of the pollution problem. To get a complete understanding of the problem all of these observations must be pieced together to a get a complete picture, which is the point of these science show and tells.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 29, 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 29, 2004

Daily Log

How can you map air?

Air moves and so does pollution. Some areas of the country which produce very little pollution may actually record high levels of pollution, because pollution from somewhere else moves there. A program called Airmap is a joint program of NOAA and the University of New Hampshire is seeking to look at some of that pollution. Check out their website at http://www.airmap.unh.edu. The goal of Airmap is to learn as much as they can to try and understand New England’s changing climate and air quality. Airmap has a number of year round monitoring stations, which this summer are also part of NEAQS. Their stations measure the normal weather data as well as a number of pollutants such as ozone.

Today I visited one of those sites in northern New Hampshire, at the top of Mt. Washington, the highest mountain in New England. The mountains are a lot larger than I had expected and are very densely forested. Mt. Washington is known to have some of the worst weather in the world and the monitoring station that I visited recorded the strongest winds ever recorded on Earth, 231 miles per hour. http://www.mountwashington.org/bigwind/. The buildings at the summit are specially designed to keep from them from blowing off of the mountain. One is even chained down. The observatory building is designed to survive winds of 300 mile per hour.The monitoring station at the top of the mountain is manned by a staff of about 8 during the summer and 4-5 during the winter. Every hour the observers go outside and take weather measurements, this takes them about 15 minutes. Most of the observers are college students or recent graduates. One of those who showed me around will be a freshman in college this next year. In addition to the weather data being collected, a bank of Airmap instruments also measure pollution. Some of the instruments are the same as those I saw on the Brown. The instruments are making constant automatic measurements.

I have become well aware that pollution can travel to unpolluted areas but today, here at the top of Mt. Washington, it really struck home. I drove three hours through fairly remote forest to get to the top of this mountain in northern New Hampshire. Looking out from the top, when the fog is not blowing through, one sees very little except for forest. But at this remote spot, several times a year, ozone reaches levels higher than the amount allowed by the EPA. I ask where it comes from, the answer I receive is that a lot of the pollution seems to from the Midwest, (the Chicago and Detroit area) some also comes from Boston and New York. Part of the goal of NEAQS is to learn more about the pollution as it travels from the areas which produce the pollution, to the areas that receive it.

Questions of the Day

How far would the pollution have to travel from Detroit to Mt. Washington?

Where are the rest of the Airmap monitoring sites?

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?

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.

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.