Stephen Bunker: Data Sampling, 23 October 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Bunker
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
October 20 — 24, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: 23 October 2011

Weather Data from the bridge

Time: 6:23 PM
Wind direction: Northeast
Wind velocity: 5 m/s
Air Temperature: 25° C (77° F)
Clouds: stratocumulus

Science and Technology Log

Collecting data is what science is all about and scientists can measure many different things from the ocean. They generally take these measurements in two different ways: discrete and ongoing samples.

Cheryl is preparing filter samples made from water collected with the CTD. These samples will be frozen and analyzed later in a laboratory on shore.

Discrete sampling means scientists will take samples at different times. When we take measurements at regular intervals, we can compare the data and look for patterns. On the R/V Walton Smith we take discrete samples each time the CTD is lowered. At approximately every two weeks RV Walton Smith will revisit the same location and collect data again. These bi-monthly data samples will let the scientists compare the data and look for patterns.

Remember when we collected weather data in class? We were also doing discrete sampling. We collected weather data from the morning and afternoon each school day. We would record precipitation, wind velocity and direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, and cloud types. Remember the pattern we noticed? When the afternoon temperature was cooler than the morning, we would have precipitation the next day.

Pump and valve system used for water sampling
Here is the pipes, valves and instruments used to take ongoing samples of surface water.

Ongoing sampling is also done on the R/V Walton Smith. On the fore, port (the left front) side of the ship, ocean water is continually sucked into some pipes. This surface water is continually pumped through instruments and water chemistry data is collected.

This continual data sampling is recorded on a computer and graphs can be made for  different characteristics of water chemistry. When continual data is graphed, the graphs have a smoother shape than they would with discrete samples.

Initially I thought that we were just collecting data each time we stopped to lower the CTD. Actually we had been collecting data throughout the entire voyage.

Kuan is monitoring his ongoing data collection of dissolved inorganic carbon.

Kuan, one of the scientists on our cruise, was measuring the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon in the ocean. The process of doing this has typically been a discrete sampling process that involves chemically analyzing water samples, Kuan has developed an instrument that would take ongoing water samples and measure the amount of dissolved inorganic carbon continually.

His instrument would tap into the water pipes above and take ongoing samples throughout the trip. He also wrote a computer program that would record, calculate, and graph the quantity of dissolved inorganic carbon. He even collects GPS data so he can tell where in the ocean his samples were taken. His experiment, I learned, is cutting-edge science or something that hasn’t been tried before.

Personal Log

I hadn’t realized the close connection there is between our earth’s atmosphere and its oceans. I understood how the ocean temperatures and currents  affect our weather systems. But, I didn’t understand how on a micro scale this happens as well. The ocean will exchange (absorb and give off) carbon dioxide and many other molecules with the air.

Why is it important to understand how the ocean and atmosphere interact? We often hear how greenhouse gasses are contributing to climate change. Carbon dioxide, considered a greenhouse gas, is one of the inorganic carbon molecules absorbed and given off by the oceans. When it is absorbed, it can make the ocean slightly more acidic which could harm the micro organisms that are in the ocean food chain

Understanding the interaction between atmosphere and ocean will help us understand why some areas of the earths ocean absorb more carbon dioxide and others don’t.

Nancy Lewis, September 21, 2003

Nancy Lewis
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
September 15 – 27, 2003

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO)/TRITON
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: September 21, 2003

Sunrise:  0609
Sunset:  1819

Plan of the Day:

0045:  1.5 N CTD

0445:  pH profiler Cast

0700:   Recover/Deploy 2 N 140 W Buoy

CTD after anchor drop

AOML after buoy fly by

2230:  3 N CTD and AOML

Weather Observation Log

Latitude:  2 degrees, 2.2’ N
Longitude:  140 degrees, 2.5’ W
Visibility:  12 nautical miles
Wind direction: 140 degrees
Wind speed:  15 knots
Sea wave height:  3-4 feet
Swell wave height:  4-6 feet
Sea water temperature:  27.7 degrees C
Sea level pressure:  1012.2 mb
Air Temperature:  26.7 degrees C
Dry bulb pressure:  26.3 degrees C
Wet bulb pressure:  24.0 degrees C
Cloud cover:  2/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log

Several other scientists are utilizing the CTD casts in their projects.  The first thing that is done when the CTD is brought to the surface is to collect what we have been calling the “Dickson” sample  A .5 liter sea water sample is collected from the surface and then capped using a small bench-top press.  These samples are sent to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and are analyzed for dissolved inorganic carbon.  This procedure is done by the Survey Technician, and yours truly has learned to do it.  Also, scientist Charles Gutter-Johnson, from Bloomsburg University, uses the CTD water samples for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute research.  This involves taking chlorophyll and nutrient samples using a bench-top flourometer.  Charles also works to collect barnacles off the retrieved buoys for the Bloomsburg University Barnacle Census.

Tom Nolan from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been calibrating his instrument, called the MISR, which stands for Multi-angle Imaging  SpectroRadiometer. What Tom is doing is checking this instrument against NASA’s  satellite in order to check its calibration. The instrument basically looks like a small oblong box, which he points to the sun to get a reading, and then down at the ocean to get another reading.

Lewis 9-21-03 Tom Nolan
Tom Nolan, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, calibrates the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).

These checks have to be done at precise times in order to catch the satellite in its orbit overhead.  The satellite images are used in weather forecasting and tracking of storms, such as hurricane Isabel. Here is the website address for viewing the satellite image of Isabel taken by MISR:  I would love to look at the image myself, but we do not have the internet on the KA.

I would also like to give you a website address where you can view a labeled diagram of a buoy.  It is:  Here is a question for you: why do the buoys measure conductivity?  To give you somewhat of a hint, conductivity is actually measuring the salinity of the ocean water.  How does salinity relate to ocean currents?

Personal Log

Today we dedicated the TAO buoy to Naalehu Elementary and Intermediate School!  On a large NOAA sticker, I wrote the name of our school, and we had a dedication ceremony where the Captain, John Kermond, our videographer, Tom Nolan and myself signed the sticker. Captain Ablondi and myself then fixed the sticker to the central shaft of the buoy, which is above the water.

CO Ablondi, scientist Tom Nolan, and TAS Nancy Lewis dedicate a buoy to Na’alehu School.
signing the sticker to dedicate the TAO buoy

I am very proud to be a part of the Teacher at Sea program, and be able to share the work on the KA’IMIMOANA of climate observation.  I hope to inspire many of the students at my school, and at schools around the country to a greater interest and study of science, and in particular earth science and oceanography.  If we fail to care for the oceans (and it is all one big ocean despite our giving them separate names) we risk upsetting the entire ecosystem of this planet.  We need the next generation, those of you in school now, to learn as much as they can about this planet, the waters that cover 70% of it, and the atmosphere above us.

We finished filming this afternoon just before sunset, and would like to see who can answer this “brain teaser” of a question:  Why does the ocean foam? Even I do not know the answer to this question, and I pose it for all you budding young scientists out there.

The game tournaments have begun, and I just learned how to place the card game “Sequence”.  Tom is my partner and we won 2 out of 3 games that we played against Nicole Colasacco, the Field Operations Officer (the FOO) and Curt Redman, Engine Utilityman.  The championship game will be against Doc and the CO (Commanding Officer), Mark Ablondi.  According to Doc, whoever wins the first round will be going down when they play her and the CO.  We’ll see!

Questions of the Day:  Quiz for prizes!  First prize will be a KA’IMIMOANA T-shirt, Second prize a ship’s baseball cap, and Third prize a special KA’IMIMOANA patch.  

Here are the questions:

  1. Name the world’s 5 oceans.
  2. Which one is the largest?
  3. How many island groups make up French Polynesia and what are their names?
  4. What is La Nina?
  5. What does NOAA stand for?

Kia Orana!  (May you live long and be at peace, in Cook Islands Maori language)