Diane Stanitski: Day 13, August 23, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 13: August 23, 2002

The FOO’s quote of the day: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
– Aristotle

Weather log:
We started this morning with some cloud cover but with bright sunlight illuminating the buoy deck where our live broadcast was about to be filmed. Moments after we finished, the skies opened up – downpour! Here are our observations at 2200 this evening:
Latitude: 5°48.6’N
Longitude: 140°1.7’W
Visibility: 8 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 350° (constantly shifting)
Wind speed: 10 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 4-5′
Sea water temperature: 28.4°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.9 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8, rain with cumulus clouds

Here’s the update on what is now Hurricane Fausto, currently located at 15.3°N, 120.0°W and heading 280° (just north of west) at 14 kts. Its central pressure has dropped to 959 mb and its maximum sustained winds are 105 kts, gusting to 130 kts. It’s still running strong.

Science and Technology Log:

I believe that our live broadcast went quite well today, but only after being disconnected twice after only seconds of the first two takes. No harm done in the end. The interviewees were great! They are all such interesting and unique people with fascinating lives. After reviewing the show later, we discovered that a loud buzz muffled some of the interviews. The problem was detected and will be fixed before Monday’s broadcast.

Congratulations to Holly Smith, one of my graduate students at Shippensburg University, who answered our KA quiz question, “What is a Kelvin wave?” correctly. Her answer is “A Kelvin wave is a warm pacific wave that forms near Indonesia and travels east toward the Americas. It can carry warm air and a bit of rain with it too!” Yes, although Kelvin waves can form anytime, this wave is often highlighted during El Niño events because the weakening or reversing of wind direction in the tropics permits the warm water in the western Pacific to move eastward shifting the high sea-surface temperatures from the western to the central Pacific, which affects the atmospheric circulation. It also tends to shut off the upwelling in the eastern Pacific, which reduces the number of marine organisms in that region. Holly, you’ll receive a NOAA T-shirt for your efforts and knowledge – great job!

I volunteered to do the CTD test by myself this afternoon with a little (ok, a lot of) help from Jason, the survey technician. I think I’ve got it down at this point and will gladly assist with these readings that need to be taken approximately every six hours. It’s a time intensive job and tonight’s 3 AM readings will take around 3 hours and sample water from the bottom of the ocean, near 4000 meters depth.

After the CTD sampling, I interviewed Larry Wooten, our technician on the ship, in order to discover how he arrived at the Ka’imimoana. Larry had been in the Air Force in South Dakota as a missile technician. He then went to South Dakota State University to become an electronic engineering technician. He said that he typically spends 6 months on the ship and 6 months off during the year so he can return to Seattle to spend time with his wife and daughter. He is able to do almost anything on the ship, however, the majority of his time is now spent as network administrator (helping with software applications and fixing computers) and less on hands on electronics. Overall, a great guy ready to help in a flash.

Personal Log:

Shortly after Larry’s interview, we had a fire drill followed by an abandon ship drill. The fire was supposedly in the computer lab, the location where we’re all supposed to go in case of a fire. So, I found myself on the upper deck with two other scientists. It was only after much searching that we discovered all of the other scientists in the forward lounge. Whoops! Now I know where to go in both situations. The abandon ship drill went well. We all had to don our gumby suits this time to ensure that we know how to quickly suit up in case we need to go directly into the water. We also have to bring long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in case we end up spending a long time in the rescue boats in the sun. Fortunately, everything is extremely safe on the ship, but the drills help us to know what to do in all situations.

I received an excellent question from Austin at the National Weather Service in Phoenix, Arizona. He is wondering how the MGO, Kelvin wave, and thermocline are all linked. Now that we know about Kelvin waves based on Holly’s correct answer, you can see the relationship with the thermocline. But, what about the Madden-Julian Oscillation? This is a phenomenon named after the two scientists who initially discovered the oscillation. This oscillation triggers an extremely wide band of convective activity that sweeps from west to east across the equator every 30-60 days. It has been hypothesized that the MJO could possibly be a trigger for El Nino.

In just a few moments I play the Captain in Scrabble. It’s my favorite game that I often play with my Mom and best friend, Lisa. I’ll get back to you regarding the outcome.

The question of the day for all of you is: 

What causes a halo to form around the moon (or the sun)?

Keep in touch,