It is beautiful here in Houston and Galveston, Texas: sunny, light wind, pleasant-looking clouds, and around 80 F.
Science and Technology Log
People benefit from collaboration and science is brought further, faster and better because of it. This is true of Federal agencies as well. NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been scientific partners for decades.
A place where the important work of these Federal agencies intersects is Earth. Good Earth systems research requires a complement of remote-sensing technology, modeling, and ground truthing. This interagency partnership makes clear the need for specialized expertise in different areas, which complement each other. The results are also cost-saving. A classic example is NOAA and NASA’s work with weather, climate, and other environmental satellites. Without these our nation would not know when to evacuate due to hurricanes or tornadoes, plus so much more. There are many ways NOAA and NASA work together to give us a better “eyes in the sky.”
Satellites and other research result in massive amounts of data. This is where sophisticated computer modeling helps. Despite all of our improvements in technology, at some point you need to put people on the ground…or sea or space.
Today I visited the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas (JSC). It is the famed headquarters of U.S. manned space flight. The facility was purposely built like a college campus to foster collaboration and innovation. Just like my upcoming trip aboard NOAA Ship Pisces, people need to go! They need to be there, whether that be space or sea, to figure out the science. No amount of satellites or computer modeling can replace what is gained by the human experience. We have pretty amazing robots now, but nothing beats good old fashioned people power.
For my mission, we are looking at the abundance of fish species. There is remote sensing used as well, but we also need to fish, and get out in open water by ship. This is vital for the ecological and economic health of the Gulf of Mexico. The International Space Station (ISS) puts humans in space. There have been many positive effects from this work in our everyday lives such as Velcro, water recycling technology, MRI machines, cell phones, and fire fighting respirators. Working in microgravity is also bringing us one step closer to ending breast cancer.
You can interpret the title of this blog post a few different ways. Independently and together, NOAA and NASA work to progress science. These effects have built over decades to benefit humanity and our relationship with Earth in numerous ways. The two agencies are also continuing on this journey. It remains a work in progress. Our future depends on it.
Yesterday was an auspicious start to my trip. The museum itself is a treat for all ages as well as the tram tours. There are two tram tours you can take at Johnson Space Center, the red and blue. A trip to JSC is definitely not complete without a tour! I took both and enjoyed the high quality audio commentary from astronauts of many missions that accompany the drive.
First stop was the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. I wish I was there during the workweek to see it in action. There are mockups of the International Space Station (ISS) for training, a model Russian Soyuz space capsule (which is how our astronauts now get into space since the last shuttle retired in 2011), tests related to the future of manned space flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, manned rovers for future asteroid and Mars missions, and even a robotics playing field where high school teams compete.
The other tour took me to the White Flight Control Room. Since 1996, this mission control center has been used for shuttle missions, ISS mission control, and is now used for simulations to train mission controllers. It was noted that the room will become one of deep historical significance when it becomes Orion Mission Control.
Both tours end at Rocket Park. It is awe-inspiring to see a Mercury-Redstone spacecraft-booster like the one that propelled New Hampshire’s own Alan Shepard into space. I stood next to a F-1 rocket engine and then it was time to see, in my opinion, the crown jewel of Rocket Park: The Saturn V (Five). Even in person it is difficult to grasp its size.
NASA Johnson Space Center deftly combines the romantic and sometimes tragic history of manned space flight with the hopes and excitement of current and future missions.
Did You Know?
We landed on the moon in 1969. The average age of NASA engineers in the Apollo program was 27. This means that when they heard President Kennedy say, “We choose to go to the moon” many were still in school!
This is one I think about every time I fly…We landed on the moon before adding wheels on luggage.
The Surface Fluxes group consists of James Edson, University of Connecticut, Ludovic Bariteau, University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and June Marion, Oregon State University. This group measures the amount of radiation and heat into and out of the ocean and was covered in the November 12, 2011 blog posting.
The purpose of this posting is to highlight the work of Ludovic Bariteau who is measuring the carbon dioxide flux between the atmosphere and ocean. For redundancy and testing, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is measured with several infrared instruments pictured below. Two of the instruments are in the pilot stage and were developed for this research cruise. The equipment used for measuring carbon dioxide in seawater is done in collaboration with Wade McGillis from Lamont-Doherty-Earth Observatory (LDEO). Ludovic plans to refine the instrumentation based on the pilot test. The carbon dioxide data will be correlated with surface flux data to present a complete picture of ocean atmosphere fluxes.
What about the MJO?
Previous postings described the work being done by the 7 science groups and the instrumentation being used to measure the various characteristics of the ocean-atmosphere interaction that may be part of the active phase of the MJO. Readers of this blog may be asking the same question that some of my students are now asking, “Did you experience the MJO?”
Data collected to date by the science groups suggests that we experienced an active MJO phase. Although It will take years to analyze and correlate the data collected from the various organizations involved in Project DYNAMO, the Revelle experienced high winds, colder surface water surface temperatures, and the intermittent storms separated by quiescent periods that are believed to accompany the active phase of the MJO. Based on initial data this active phase may have occurred between the approximate dates of Nov. 24 through Dec.2.
Wyrtki Jet Current
Before discussing the effects of the MJO on Indian Ocean circulation, it is useful to provide a brief background on the currents in the Indian Ocean which are more complicated than those in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in several ways:
Indian Ocean currents are poorly defined
They are influenced by the presence of the Eurasian continent
They are more variable than the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean currents. Some Indian Ocean currents vary with the seasons. For example, on the top diagram below, notice there are two unnamed gyres located in the northern hemisphere west and east of India.
The Revelle left station on December 2, and began north south transects across the equator to delineate the extent and the speed of the Wyrtki Jet Current. The Wyrtki Jet is a narrow jet-like surface current that flows eastward during the transition periods between the Northeast and Southwest Monsoon currents and is believed to accompany the active phase of the MJO.
Wyrtki jet speeds of 150 cm/s eastward at the surface were identified during the cruise. In addition a current flowing westward was identified at a depth of 100 m. The purpose of the transects is to delineate the lateral and vertical extents of these currents. The currents are measured using four Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCPs) located in the hull of the ship (these are Doppler sonars, analogous to Doppler radar and lidar measurements discussed in previous blogs).
I worked the winch for the last drop of Chameleon on Leg 3 of Project DYNAMO aboard the R/V Revelle. I must say that I am proud of my work as a “Winch Winder”. In the past 5 weeks, I experienced a range of emotions regarding the winch. I initially felt fearful of working solo on such a valuable instrument. Once I began working solo, I was still intimidated because the winds and currents are so variable at the equator. Intimidation was finally replaced by competence after operating the instrument in 40 knot winds without slamming it into the ship! Aurelie Moulin was kind enough to shoot this video of me just before Chameleon was pulled out of the water on the last drop.
I would like to share my interview with Jude Irza, Ordinary Seaman aboard the R/V Revelle who provides extremely thoughtful advice and insight regarding career choices and preparation that may be helpful not only for students unsure of their future, but for those who may desire a career change at any stage in life.
Question: What made you decide on a career in this field?
That question is straight forward enough but my answer is a little bit convoluted. I never woke up one day and decided that I wanted to become a Merchant Marine and work on Oceanographic Ships. In fact, I have been fortunate to have had two careers before this one: Naval Officer and Finance Manager. Here’s how I embarked on my first two careers.
First, I attended college on a Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Scholarship. After college, I went to Flight School in Pensacola, Florida, and flew as a navigator in the United States Navy. While in the Navy, I decided to expand my horizons and earn a Masters in Business Administration. While completing my MBA, I decided that a career in finance would be challenging and rewarding. So I resigned my commission and I worked at a large telecom company in San Diego. Later, I had the opportunity to join a telecom start-up and later a consulting company. Although I enjoyed working in finance for fifteen years, I was ready to do something exciting and different. I had always thought working as an Officer in the Merchant Marine would be fun. Expecting to be too old for this career, I was surprised and pleased when my research uncovered a new program where I could go to sea and work towards a Third Mate License through a two-year program offered by the Pacific Maritime Institute (PMI) in Seattle, Washington. So, approximately two years ago, I joined the program and was partnered with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. I joined the R/V Revelle as an Ordinary Seaman. Already, this is my fourth trip on the R/V Revelle and I am close to finishing PMI’s program. I hope to take my Coast Guard License exams next summer and have my 1600 ton 3rd Mate License shortly thereafter.
Question: What are the positives and negatives of this line of work?
The exact nature of the work depends on what billet or position one is filling and to an extent that determines the positives and negatives. For example, an Ordinary Seaman like me spends most of the time cleaning, removing rust and painting. Work is performed both inside and outside of the ship. Mates, however, are Merchant Marine Officers, and spend most of their time standing watch, on the bridge of the ship. Most, if not all, merchant mariners would agree that being able to travel and see the world are positives in this line of work. The biggest negative is separation from family members for months at a time. Typically, at Scripps, we are out to sea for eight months out of twelve. Moreover, especially at the lower level positions, the work can be arduous and sometimes monotonous.
Question: What advice would you give students who are unsure of their career goals?
I would give students five pieces of advice:
1. Get Information and Prerequisites – Get on the internet and research the careers in which you might be interested. Learn about what qualifications and prerequisites are necessary for each career. Try to find a person who is in that career and ask them good questions. Be realistic, but also look for unconventional pathways.
2. Inventory your Skills and Abilities – Try to determine what you enjoy doing and what you are good at. Try and see what careers other people chose that have your talents and abilities.
3. Get Real-World Experience – Try and experience careers directly without investing too much time and energy by taking a part-time, internship or volunteer position. You’ll learn an enormous amount by working alongside other people.
4. Change your Career if you find that it is not Right for You – Some people, including myself, are not suited to only one career. Don’t be afraid to try something new if you no longer find enjoyment in your current line of work. But be financially responsible and try to not incur too much debt especially in your younger years. You want to keep your options open and debt can limit options.
5. You are Never Too Old to Start Again – I am forty-five years old, but feel energized doing something new. I don’t know if I will be in this career ten years from now, but I am certainly enjoying it now.
The TOGA (Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere) Radar Group consists of Michael Watson, NASA Contractor from Computer Science Corporation, Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia; Elizabeth Thompson, Colorado State University; and Owen Shieh of the University of Hawaii.
The following paragraphs provide a brief description of TOGA C-Band Doppler Radar.
Radar is an acronym for radio detection and ranging. Radar was developed just before World War II for military use but now serves a variety of purposes including weather forecasting. Radar is an electronic device which transmits an electromagnetic signal, receives back an echo from the target and determines various characteristics of the target from the received signal. Doppler radar adds the capability of measuring direction and speed of a target by measuring the Doppler Effect, or the component of the wind going either toward or away from the radar.
Doppler radar is divided into different categories or bands, according to the wavelength of the radar. Some common Doppler bands are:
S-band radars operate on a wavelength of 8-15 cm and are useful for far range weather observation.
C-band radars operate on a wavelength of 4-8 cm and are best suited for short-range weather observation.
X-band radars operate on a wavelength of 2.5-4 cm and are useful for detecting tiny precipitation particles
The NASA TOGA C-Band radar has a range of 300 km. In addition to the TOGA C-band radar, the ship has both S and X band radar. These three systems allow large and small-scale forecasting capabilities.
When not deployed on field campaigns, TOGA radar resides at Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, where it gathers meteorological data and supports launches.
During Leg 3 of Project DYNAMO, TOGA radar scans are performed in the following intervals:
Automated high-resolution scans for a 150 km radius every 10 minutes
Automated high-resolution scans for a 300 km radius at the top and bottom of the hour (every 59 and 29 minutes)
Vertical cross sections at 9,19,39 and 49 minutes past the hour.
Below are examples of radar scan images of a single storm cell and rainfall provided courtesy of Owen Shieh.
The day after Thanksgiving, the Ocean Mixing Group decided to pull the T Chain out of the water after discovering a couple of damaged cables. The Chief Scientist ultimately decided to move the ship to another location on the other side of the buoy. It was extremely windy that day and the team was trying to perform this task in hard hats which constantly blew off in the wind. I am sure we looked extremely comical to those who were watching. In addition, we had to juggle large pieces of foam used to protect the T Chain which promptly blew away. There were at least seven of us and I thought we probably looked like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie.
We are experiencing squalls on almost a daily basis that are separated by quiet calm periods and occasional sunshine. Weather data indicates that we may be in the active phase of the MJO. I managed to get some interesting sunset photographs with the cloud formations.
My students want to know how I am adapting to the lack of privacy. This is not my first time on a ship and I own a sailboat so being at sea is not an uncommon experience for me. However, being at sea this long with so much to accomplish in a short time has caused the lack of privacy to become a big issue for me. In addition to covering the 7 science groups for this blog, I am teaching the last 5 weeks of my classes via distance education and posting assignments for my students based on data obtained on this cruise.
There are little things on the ship that make the lack of privacy more tolerable. There are steak Sundays that include a tasty non-alcoholic ginger beer – a weekly treat. There is also Yoga everyday from 1:00 p.m.to 2:00 p.m. I brought one of my yoga DVDs from home as did others so we have a variety of programs and do not get bored. The standing poses are difficult on a moving ship, but I manage to get through it.
I am beginning to realize that I enjoy my time on the winch with Chameleon because that is the only time I am physically alone. I am thinking to myself how crazy and scary it is that my idea of spending quality alone time involves a noisy sampling instrument! But alas, even Chameleon cannot make up for the fact that I miss my own private bathroom.
One morning while waiting for the sunrise on the bow, I was treated to quite a show of jumping fish. The fish are tuna and are jumping to avoid predators. I have seen jumping fish many times while on the winch, but never so many and for such an extended period of time. They continued their performance until well after breakfast. I shot this video shortly after breakfast.