Karolyn Braun, November 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: November 1, 2006

Plan of the Day: Arrive in Kwajalein, RMI

TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA

TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA

In many of my past journal entries I have talked about El Niño or ENSO, so what is it?  Well El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences is increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. Observations of conditions in the tropical Pacific are considered essential for the prediction of short-term (a few months to 1 year) climate variations.  To provide necessary data, NOAA operates and assists in the TAO buoy project, which measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band. These buoys daily transmit data, which are available to researchers and forecasters around the world in real time.

In normal, non-El Niño conditions the trade winds blow towards the west across the tropical Pacific. These winds pile up warm surface water in the west Pacific, so that the sea surface is about 1/2 meter higher at Indonesia than at Ecuador.  The sea surface temperature is about 8 degrees C higher in the west, with cool temperatures off South America, due to an upwelling of cold water from deeper levels.  This cold water is nutrient-rich, supporting high levels of primary productivity, diverse marine ecosystems, and major fisheries.  Rainfall is found in rising air over the warmest water in the west Pacific, and the east Pacific is relatively dry.

The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise.

The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise (in light blue).

During El Niño, the trade winds relax in the central and western Pacific leading to a depression of the thermocline in the eastern Pacific, and an elevation of the thermocline in the west.  This reduces the efficiency of upwelling to cool the surface and cut off the supply of nutrient rich thermocline water to the euphotic zone.  The result is a rise in sea surface temperature and a drastic decline in primary productivity, the latter of which adversely affects higher trophic levels of the food chain, including commercial fisheries in this region.  The weakening of easterly trade winds during El Niño is also evident.  Rainfall follows the warm water eastward, with associated flooding in Peru and drought in Indonesia and Australia. The eastward displacement of the atmospheric heat source overlaying the warmest water results in large changes in the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn force changes in weather in regions far removed from the tropical Pacific.

Unfortunately, NOAA recently issued an unscheduled EL NIÑO advisory due to El Niño conditions that developed in the tropical Pacific and are likely to continue into early 2007. Ocean temperatures have increased remarkably in the equatorial Pacific during the last two weeks. “Currently, weak El Niño conditions exist, but there is a potential for this event to strengthen into a moderate event by winter,” said Vernon Kousky, NOAA’s lead El Niño forecaster.

During the last 30 days, drier-than-average conditions have been observed across all of Indonesia, Malaysia and most of the Philippines, which are usually the first areas to experience ENSO-related impacts.  This dryness can be expected to continue, on average, for the remainder of 2006. Also, the development of weak El Niño conditions helps explain why this Atlantic hurricane season has been less active than was previously expected.  El Niño typically acts to suppress hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea region.  However, at this time the El Niño impacts on Atlantic hurricanes are small.

So for the past month I have been on the cutting-edge research that assists physical scientists with data that will create ENSO forecast models to improve our understanding of underlying physical processes at work in the climate system.  On our way into Kwajalein, I got to steer the ship.  Didn’t go very straight but not bad for my first time.  I want to give a HUGE thank you to Commanding Officer Mark Pickett; Executive Officer Robert Kamphaus; Field Operations Officer Rick Hester; the Junior Officers, the science team and the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA for the amazing opportunity I’ve had the honor to experience.

Karolyn Braun, October 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: American Samoa
Date: October 31, 2006

Plan of the Day: Transit to Kwajalein, RMI; Science Wrap-up meeting; Celebrate Halloween.

TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.

TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.

Did you know Halloween originated as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain with Irish, Scots, Welsh and other immigrants transporting versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century? Most other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late 20th century. The term Halloween, and its older spelling Hallowe’en, is shortened from All-hallowsevening, as it is the evening before “All Hallows’ Day” (also known as “All Saints’ Day”). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints Day to November 1.

Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent (e.g. Catalan mythology about witches, Irish tales of the Sídhe).  The American tradition of “trick-or-treating” dates back to the All Souls’ Day parades in England. During this time, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes.”  They gave them these cakes if they promised to pray for their dead family members.

Handing out soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits.  The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.  Today, they receive candy instead. So there you have it!

So the day began as usual with breakfast, a work out, and helping the officers on board create their costumes.  Then I went down to the galley and made Halloween cookies, cupcakes and caramel apples with Don and Carrie, the Stewards.  During the afternoon, I packed some then Phoebe, Rebecca and I dressed up for dinner and a little fun of handing out candy to everyone onboard. A good time had by all!

Karolyn Braun, October 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 30, 2006

Plan of the Day: Transit to Kwajalein, RMI

TAS Braun suits up in fire gear.

TAS Braun suits up in fire gear.

Well, we are on our third day of overcast and rain.  Our sailing path has taken us into the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).  The ITCZ is an area of low pressure that forms where the Northeast Trade Winds meet the Southeast Trade Winds near the earth’s equator. As these winds converge, moist air is forced upward.  This causes water vapor to condense, or be “squeezed” out, as the air cools and rises, resulting in a band of heavy precipitation around the globe. This band moves seasonally, always being drawn toward the area of most intense solar heating, or warmest surface temperatures.  It moves toward the Southern Hemisphere from September through February and reverses direction as the Northern Hemisphere warms during its summer that occurs in the middle of the calendar year. However, the ITCZ is less mobile over the oceanic longitudes, where it holds a stationary position just north of the equator.  In these areas, the rain simply intensifies with increased solar heating and diminishes as the sun moves away. An exception to this rule occurs when there is an ENSO event, during which the ITCZ is deflected toward unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy scrabble

So what else did I do today…well I will tell you!  The morning I spent creating a Halloween costume out of duct tape, line, painter’s tape and rags from the Bosun’s locker. It sounds a bit odd I know but it will all come together!  After lunch, the afternoon was full of fire drill and abandoned ship drill excitement.  During the fire drill, the scenario was that a fire broke out in the aft steering access tunnel.  As scientists, we assist the officers in closing vents and act as runners for DC central, Damage Control.  Patrick and I had to carry 5-gallon barrels of fire-fighting foam around the ship to the fire fighters, and we had to fetch air tanks as the fire reflashed. Very crazy stuff.  When the drill was suspended, the fire fighters were wet head to toe from sweat, shaky and drained from the adrenaline that was flowing through them.  At the day’s end, and after a little air drying, I was able to try one of the fire suits on and got a hint of what they go through during a drill or a real fire. The suit was heavy and hot and that was before I had the tanks, mask and helmet on.  I applaud anyone who has had the privilege to call himself or herself a firefighter. That evening I made a Happy Halloween banner I hung in the mess while some of the others continued on with game night!

Karolyn Braun, October 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 29, 2006

Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn replaces a rain gauge and sea surface salinity sensor on a TAO buoy.

Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn replaces a rain gauge and sea surface salinity sensor on a TAO buoy.

Plan of the Day: Repair TAO buoy 8N/International Date Line and Transit to Kwajalein, RMI

Today was our last TAO buoy of the cruise. I was able to go on the repair and assist the Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn in a rain gauge and a sea surface salinity sensor replacement.  Let’s talk TAO buoys.

Development of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array was motivated by the 1982-1983 El Nino event, the strongest of the century up to that time, which was neither predicted nor detected until nearly at its peak. The event highlighted the need for real-time data from the tropical Pacific for both monitoring, prediction, and improved understanding of El Nino. As a result, with support from NOAA’s Equatorial Pacific Ocean Climate Studies (EPOCS) program, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory,  (PMEL) began development of the ATLAS (Autonomous Temperature Line Acquisition System) mooring.  This low-cost deep ocean mooring was designed to measure surface meteorological and subsurface oceanic parameters, and to transmit all data to shore in real-time via satellite relay.  The mooring was also designed to last one year in the water before needing to be recovered for maintenance.  In August of 1996, the KA’IMIMOANA was commissioned and dedicated to servicing the TAO array east of 165E.

braun_log23aThe TAO surface buoy is a 2.3 m diameter fiberglass-over-foam toroid, with an aluminum tower and a stainless steel bridle.  When completely rigged, the system has an air weight of approximately 660 kg, a net buoyancy of nearly 2300 kg, and an overall height of 4.9 m.  The electronics tube is approximately 1.5 m long, 0.18 m diameter, and weighs 27 kg.  The buoy can be seen on radar from 4-8 miles depending on sea conditions.

Moorings are deployed in water depths between 1500 and 6000m.  To ensure that the upper section of the mooring is nearly vertical a nominal scope of 0.985 (ratio of mooring length to water depth) is employed on the moorings in water depths of 1800 meters or more.

Karolyn Braun, October 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 28, 2006

Crewmembers enjoy some tournament games will the ship is in transit.

Crewmembers enjoy some tournament games will the ship is in transit.

Plan of the Day: Transit to 8N/International Date Line and Work on Cruise Report.

I woke up very sleepy. I think I am winding down myself.  My batteries are slowly running out. I started writing my End of Cruise report for the Field Operations Officer and cleaned up the stateroom.

At the day’s end was tournament games all around.  I played sequence and darts, and lost both. Chris, one of the deck hands taught me a short splice and an eye splice.

I assisted the ET guys with updating my Intranet webpage, and I watched a movie with the Chief Scientist, Patrick.  All in all, a pretty uneventful day.

Karolyn Braun, October 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii and American Samoa
Date: October 27, 2006

Plan of the Day 

So we have one more TAO buoy to visit to conduct a repair on, and then we are on our way to Kwajalein. Everyone and everything is quieting down some.  We have a bunch of tournaments going on: Backgammon, Darts, Sequence, Scrabble, Poker and Cribbage. I signed up for darts and sequence. Should be

The XO grills dinner for the crew.

The XO grills dinner for the crew.

fun. At least it is something to do during our three-day transit to Kwajalein.

Well after a hot and humid workday, the officers of the KA’IMIMOANA celebrated a successful cruise by having a BBQ for everyone onboard. The Executive Officer was the star chef of the evening, grilling up shrimp kabobs, ribs, steak, chicken and burgers. The stewards made yummy salads.  Overall it was a nice evening out on the fantail—the first real evening where everyone sat, ate and had conversation. Normally in the galley everyone is either tired, in need of a shower, or wants some quiet time.  After dinner I played a game of darts, which I lost but was still fun. And I watched a movie: Yours, Mine and Ours. 

Saw a nice looking shark so today’s lesson: SHARKS!

Sharks are amazing fish that have been around since long before the dinosaurs existed.  They live in waters all over the world, in every ocean, and even in some rivers and lakes.  Unlike bony fish, sharks have no bones; their skeleton is made of cartilage, which is a tough, fibrous substance, not nearly as hard as bone.

There are many different species of sharks that range in size from the size of a person’s hand to bigger than a bus. Fully-grown sharks range in size from 7 inches (18 cm) long (the Spined Pygmy shark), up to 50 feet (15 m) long (the Whale shark).  Most sharks are intermediate in size, and are about the same size as people, 5-7 feet (1.5-2.1 m) long.  Half of the 368 shark species are less than 39 inches (1 m) long.

Enjoying dinner on the fantail of the ship

Enjoying dinner on the fantail of the ship

Sharks may have up to 3,000 teeth at one time. Most sharks do not chew their food, but gulp it down whole in large pieces. The teeth are arranged in rows; when one tooth is damaged or lost, another replaces it.  Most sharks have about five rows of teeth at any time.  The front set is the largest and does most of the work.

When some sharks (like the Great White or the Gray Reef shark) turn aggressive prior to an attack, they arch their back and throw back their head.  This places their mouth in a better position for taking a big bite. They also move their tail more acutely (probably in preparation for a chase). Sharks do not normally attack people, and only about 25 species of sharks have been known to attack people. Sharks attack fewer than 100 people each year.  Many more people are killed by bees or lightning.

The largest sharks are decreasing in numbers around the world because of being hunted by people. The Great White shark, the Basking shark, and the Whale shark are all waning. The Great White is protected along the coast of California and South Africa.

Are you interested in learning more about sharks?  Browse the Internet, there is tons of information out there.  The more you learn, the more you know and knowledge is power!

Karolyn Braun, October 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 26, 2006

TAS Braun shows off her eggs benedict

TAS Braun shows off her eggs Benedict

Plan of the Day 

Woke up and was in the kitchen at 5:30 a.m. The Breakfast menu: Pancakes Omelets Sausage Bacon Eggs Benedict Breakfast potatoes Fritata Breakfast Sandwiches.

It was the first time I made Eggs Benedict and I tell you the sauce is a killer. You have to continually whisk the melted butter while adding the egg yolks. If you don’t, the mixture separates and you lose your sauce.  I thought all was lost, but I was able to bring it back and ended up making one mean Eggs Benedict! Everyone seemed happy with his or her breakfast to order.  As soon as breakfast was over we cleaned up and started preparing for lunch.  I thought working with the deck crew was hot and sweaty work but the kitchen blew that out of the water.

Mexican Fiesta Lunch menu: Pork Green Chili Veggie Fajita Refried beans Super Nachos Beef Fajitas  And all the fixings Lunch went well and things slowed up after everyone left. We cleaned the kitchen and started preparing for dinner but it was at a more leisurely pace. For dinner I made garlic chicken with spinach noodles, Steak with Spanish rice and some leftovers from lunch.  I finished my day around 5:30 when I took a much-needed shower and a 20-minute power nap. Woke up to watch them drop the anchor to the TAO buoy at 8N.170W. Is it bedtime yet?

I have to give the stewards of all the NOAA ships lots of credit. They work long hard days, and from my experience, always with a smile.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.