Kevin McMahon, August 7, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
August 7, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 33.05 N
Lon. 68 deg 23.03 W
Heading 349 deg
Speed 0 kts
Barometer 1007.91 mb
Rel Humidity 83.96 %
Temp. 16.68 C

Daily Log

0800 hours. The past evening was spent steaming to this point where we are on station. The ship will remain here for all of the morning and part of the afternoon. We will await a fly over by the J31 as well as the NASA DC8. Many of the scientists onboard will also set their equipment with the use of a satellite due to pass overhead in the early afternoon.

My morning was spent helping Dan Wolfe, one of the NOAA meteorologists repair an electrical problem which had disabled the sensors that relay air temperature and relative humidity to computers aboard ship. As you can see from the photos, this was not something you would find in the job description for meteorologists. To solve the problem Dan had to climb up to a crows nest like platform on the masthead near the bow of the ship and then perform a diagnostic test on the electrical circuitry for the systems.

It was finally discovered that a switch box had allowed moisture to enter through leaky gasket. In all, the task it took several hours to complete.

During the time we were engaged with the repair we started to notice a small school of dolphins moving closer to the ship. At first they seemed to keep a distance of about 100 yards but after time, small pods of four or five would move in closer to the ship and investigate our presence in their world. I believe that this type of dolphin is known as the Atlantic White Sided Dolphin. As we were stationary in the water, a flock of shearwaters could be seen loitering off our stern and starboard side. They are a wonderful seabird to watch as they seem to effortlessly propel themselves through the air with a continuous glide, using a ground effect air flow created by an updraft of the sea waves. The dolphins would at times glide under the floating shearwaters and make them alight from the water. They seemed to enjoy this form of teasing as they repeated the act over and over.

During the afternoon I helped Drew Hamilton take more sun readings with his Sunphotometer. As I stated in yesterdays log, the sunphotometer measure the intensity of the suns direct radiation. Because we had a couple of aircraft fly over us today, the J31 and the DC8, and because those platforms contain the same equipment as that aboard the ship, we were able to validate our readings.

Question

Why is it important to have standardized equipment when conducting the same types of experiments by different people in different locations?

Kevin McMahon, August 5, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
August 5, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 44 deg 03.77 N
Lon. 68 deg 18.53 W
Heading 210 deg
Speed 8.7 kts
Barometer 1005.7 mb
Rel Humidity 79.8%
Temp. 15.4 C

Daily Log

0800 hours. We have left behind the protective cove in the shadow of Mt. Desert Island and are now in the Gulf of Maine of 235 degrees along the Maine coast. The skies ahead look more threatening than the skies we are leaving behind.

1130 hours and we are just off Matinicus Rock Lighthouse. I spent about one hour in the engine room with Keegan Plaskon who is the ships 3rd engineer. A very sophisticated propulsion system not to mention electrical systems, HVAC, and desalinization systems for the ship.

The RONALD H. BROWN is known in the trade as a diesel electric ship. It propulsion system is somewhat unique in that it uses diesel engines to generate electricity which in turn is used to power the motors turning the propellers. On most vessels of this size, there is a direct connection between the diesel engines and the propellers.

The propeller system is also unique in that there is no rudder system to steer by. With the propellers connected to what is known as a thruster, the two aft propellers can be rotated independently of each other a full 360 degrees. When the two aft thrusters are synchronized with the bow thruster and tied in with the ships GPS system, it allows the team of scientist onboard to remain on station in one place for an extended period of time. Wind, tide and currents can be overcome. Last evening we stayed in one position in a small bay near Bass Harbor, ME with the ships bow pointed into the wind. Although the wind was only about 4 knots out of the northeast, the tidal flow was running about seven knots at its peak.

There are three large diesel engines onboard whose primary use is propulsion. Each is a 16 cylinder Caterpillar (Cat 3500). A single Cat can propel the ship along at about 7 knots. As more speed is needed, the other two Cats are brought on line. The top speed of the ship is about 14 knots. But the ship also uses it diesel engines for other needs. There are three other Cats onboard. They are smaller engines with 8 cylinders each. These engines are used to provide the ship with the needed electricity for everyday use, and the BROWN uses a lot of electricity. Besides the need the scientists have for electricity, there scientific equipment runs on 110 AC just like in your TV and refrigerator home. The ship uses its generators to make fresh water, provide climate control, refrigerate its food supplies, and run the sewage treatment system, its navigational system and what seems like an endless list of other needs.

What is the fuel consumption like? I am told that the ship consumes between 5 & 6 thousand gallons of fuel per day.

Question

If there are about 75 scientists and crew aboard, how many gallons are needed per hour per day for each person per day?

The vessel is also capable of producing 4,000 gallons of water per day but that on a normal day the people onboard consume about 3,000 gallons per day for consumption, personal hygiene, toilets and industrial uses.

Question

How many gallons is this per person per hour per day?

Kevin McMahon, August 4, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
August 4, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 44 deg 07.58 N
Lon. 68 deg 01.74 W
Heading 035 deg
Speed 7.6 kts
Barometer 1005.17 mb
Rel Humidity 98.3%
Temp. 15.5 C

Daily Log

0700 hours and we are off Mount Desert Island. The air is cool with a light fog over the water and partly cloudy skies above.

The morning was spent on a heading of 035 degrees as we continue our move to the Northeast. I am told that we will just make it to the boundary area between the U.S. and Canadian border. Then we will reverse our course. It is hoped that by being close to the coastline and with the winds cooperating that the ships scientist will be able to measure some of the organic biogenics being produces by the forests of Maine. The relationship between the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which are natural in nature, and man made pollutants produced by the combustion of hydrocarbon products is one of the areas that scientist are working to understand.

0930 hours. I have been spending some time on the bridge transferring the Ships Sighting Log to an Excel Spreadsheet File and then putting the file on the ships website so that some of the scientist can compare their pollution data with various ships we have encountered.

I had a brief tour of the LIDAR (Light Radar) operation today. But we needed to cut it short as they were in the middle of a software problem. I plan to return tomorrow when the equipment is functioning more reliably.

1600 hours.

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 44 deg 06.37 N
Lon. 68 deg 12.10 W
Heading 220 deg
Speed 7.4 kts
Barometer 1003.89 mb
Rel Humidity 88.96%
Temp. 15.35 C

We seem to be charting a course to enter one of the many fiords around Mt. Desert Island, ME.

2030 hours. We are in a fjord near Mt. Desert Island off the town of Bass Harbor. Instead of setting the anchor, the ship will hold position with its bow into the wind using its thrusters which are controlled by the GPS system. The plan is for the atmospheric sensors to measure the organic biogenic compounds which are produced by the forests of the surrounding area.

Kevin McMahon, August 3, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
August 3, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 43 deg 38.65 N
Lon. 69 deg 43.93 W
Heading 096.4 deg
Speed 7.9 kts
Barometer 1009.84 mb
Rel Humidity 99.47%
Temp. 16.5 C

Daily Log

0635 hours and we are in dense pea soup fog.

1120 hours. We have been delayed by the fog but are now underway at a very slow speed, fog horn sounding every minute. The ship need to travel about 10 miles to the entrance to Boothbay harbor so that we can put ashore by launch one of the scientist and bring back to the ship another of the NOAA scientist who has been working at Pease.

I am starting to hear other fog horns in the distance. I spent some time on the bridge. The radar’s give a very accurate view of what’s around us, shoreline as well as vessels large and small in the area, but still it is not perfect and hence the need to proceed slowly.

We made it in very close to the entrance to Boothbay Harbor. I was hoping to get some pictures of the area but we were entirely fogbound. One scientist was sent ashore at approximately 1330 hours but then the return of the launch with the replacement took longer than anticipated. Apparently they became lost in the fog on their return to the ship.

We spent most of afternoon south of the Boothbay area traveling in an east west pattern taking air and water samples. We seem to slide into and out of dense fog…

I spent about an hour today on the bridge. The ability to track and identify an object at sea is so common now that it is taken as a guarantee of safety. The personnel on the bridge made it abundantly clear that it is not.

It is amazing to me that the same technology which is used to see and identify ships at sea is in a way the same technology that allows many of the scientists onboard to identify and measure many different species of chemical compounds.

Question

What size are the smallest particles we can measure in our Chemistry lab at Grady H.S.?

Kevin McMahon, August 1, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
August 1, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 56.49 N
Lon. 70 deg 33.31 W
Heading 235 deg
Speed 8.2 kts
Barometer 1015.4 mb
Rel Humidity 90.2%
Temp. 18.2C

0740 hours. We spent most of the past evening in a stationary position very near the Isle of Shoals. A very beautiful moonlit evening. We now are on a heading almost due east of the Isle of Shoals, again looking for the NYC, Boston plume.

It is a continual quest, not quite like Ahab and his search for the white whale but a quest none the less. The scientists aboard the RONALD H. BROWN have embarked upon a continual search. Someone once said that one of the great joys in life is getting nature to give up one of her secrets. Meaning that the fun and excitement in science is learning how things work. Each in his or her way is really trying to gain an understanding of how the world works.

Today I spoke with Hans Osthoff. He is a young man with an intense desire to learn about the chemistry of our atmosphere. Hans works for NOAA at the Aeronomy Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. As a young boy he developed a love for chemistry and stayed with it. He now has advanced degrees in Analytical and Physical Chemistry.

Aboard the ship he runs a piece of equipment which is extremely sophisticated. It is called a Cavity Ringdown Spectrometer. It can measure the diffusion of light as it is passed through a sample of air which is contained in a copper tube. At each end of the copper tube there are parabolic mirrors. As a beam of laser light enters the tube, it bounces back and forth many times before exiting at the other end. The time the beam of light spends in the tube is measured and allows scientists to measure concentrations of:

NO2 NO3 N2O5

Once the concentrations have been found, the scientist can then calculate the reactions rates and the products which will be introduced to our atmosphere.

In the end, we will all gain a better understanding of our atmosphere and hopefully learn how to better maintain our environment.

Question

Can you name the three compounds above?

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.

Kevin McMahon, July 31, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 31, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 43 deg 38.20 N
Lon. 69 deg 57.97 W
Speed 8.9 kts
Barometer 1016.68 mb
Rel Humidity 97.27%
Temp. 18.16 C

Daily Log

0835 hours. The wind speed has increased and is now at about 16 kts which lend a slight roll the ship.

We came within a couple of miles of Fletcher Point, ME. Before turning around, at present we are heading in an easterly direction.

Helped to launch an ozonesonde at 1000. The winds had kicked up to about 20 kts out of the southwest which made it somewhat tricky. In all though it was a successful launch.

I learned later that the ozonesonde made it to an altitude of 39.9 kilometers, not the record but pretty close.

I’ve been up on the bridge. The views of the Maine coastline are spectacular.

Talking to some of the men and women who operate the ship I am amazed at the complexity of the vessel. Aside form the scientific aspect, the bridge alone seems to have more in common with a Boeing 747 than it does with a ship on the sea. Gone are the ships wheel and binnacle and the entire nautical flavor as described by Melville.

The RONALD H. BROWN is as modern a ship as you will find on the ocean.

She is 274 feet in length with a beam of 52.5 feet and a draft of 19 feet.

Its diesel engines do not drive the propellers directly, rather they produce electricity which intern powers electric motors that drive the ships twin aft thrusters and single bow thruster. The ship does not have rudders but is instead maneuvered by the thrusters which have the ability to rotate 360 degrees.

The ships wheel has been replaced by a joystick type apparatus which allows for minute movement in all direction. The GPS navigational system allows the ship to maintain a fixed course over an extended period of time or, hold a steady fixed position within one meter of a desired location.

Questions

How does a GPS system work?

Does the GPS system on the ship differ from the one we use for class fieldwork?

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.

Kevin McMahon, July 30, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 30, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 37.86 N
Lon. 70 deg 12.37 W
Speed 8.6 kts
Barometer 1018.96 mb
Rel Humidity 93.16%
Temp. 18.9 C

The seas are calm. The skies have a distant haze. The New England atmosphere so common at this time of year. As is usual for the day, at 0700 we sent aloft a radiosonde, and then at 1000 an ozonesonde.

I was lucky enough to see a couple of finback whales; but unfortunately I had left my camera on my bunk, before beginning a discussion with Drew Hamilton about alternative power generation. Many of the scientists lead very diverse lives. Drew has a house in Seattle and wants to get off the electrical grid. He has worked for NOAA for 25 years and has seen much of the world. Thirty years ago he started out at the University of Miami, never in a thousand years dreaming he’d be involved in the kind of research he’s doing.

Ever hear of di-methyl sulfide DMS? As chemistry teacher I’d heard the name but never understood its significance to the atmospheric work the scientist aboard the ship are undertaking. It turns out that di-methyl sulfide is produced by plankton and is part of a planktons waste process. DMS is one of the major contributors of atmospheric sulfur. Overly high levels in the atmosphere can act as a reflective unit not allowing enough sunlight through our atmosphere. As a result, in certain areas the Earth does not receive the needed heat for some of the biological processes to take place.

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 43 deg 17.84 N
Lon. 69 deg 33.83 W
Speed 9.3 kts
Barometer 1018.3 mb
Rel Humidity 86.16%
Temp. 20.65 C

1530 hours and there seems to be a flurry of activity among many of the scientist. A radiosonde is being rapidly readied to be sent aloft. It seems that the ship has reached a position somewhat east of Portland, ME and we have found a plume of ozone. The initial spike on the instrumentation showed 80-85 ppb (parts per billion) but then it jumped again to 101 ppb. This spike in the ozone was enough to request that another ozonesonde be readied and sent aloft. They have also requested a fly over by the DC3 out of Pease. Onboard the DC3 is a LIDAR (Light Radar) which measures atmospheric ozone. I am told that the cost of one ozonesonde is approximately one thousand dollars, so I assume that the readings on the instrumentation are justifying the expense. It will be interesting to see what they all have to say at the evening science meeting which is held each evening at 1930 hours.

We seemed to have found a large plume of ozone. It is as everyone, the science staff at least, had assumed. We have indeed found a large plume of ozone.

1930 hours. We are now heading in a westerly direction for Cape Elizabeth, ME.

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?

Kevin McMahon, July 29, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 29, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 43.99
Lon. 70deg 02.99
Barometer 1015.71 mb
Rel Humidity 94.6%
Temp. 17.1 C
Radiosond aloft at 0710.

Daily Log

Science meeting at 0800. It has been decided that we will try to rendezvous with the J31 out of Pease at approximately 1130 and if all goes well send another radiosonde aloft.

Since I came onboard the RONALD H. BROWN on the 26th of July I have been completely amazed at how sophisticated life onboard a modern research vessel has become. On the first day waiting in line for lunch I inquired as to how long we can expect to have the fresh fruits and vegetables? Mr. Whitehead, the chief steward answered me that, “we always serve up fresh salads, very little of our produce is frozen.” When I inquired as to how they do it, I was informed that the ships refrigeration system was equipped with a device which filters out the Ethylene, a compound which causes produce to rot. As a result we can expect to have fresh salads on a daily basis.

This little tidbit of information got me to thinking about the possibility of a lesson plan which would incorporate some chemistry and some biology.

Questions

1. Can you draw the molecular structure of Ethylene?

2. What bacteria are involved in the spoilage of food and how does the elimination of ethylene play a part in this process?

Most of my time over the last 3 days has been spent getting to know the ship, the crew, and the scientific staff. It is odd in that I am being drawn more towards the operation of the vessel than I am to the scientific community. But both aspects are keeping me busy.

I have been working with Dan Wolfe, one of the main meteorologists onboard. I had thought that because I teach Earth Science, I knew something about weather forecasting. I have a long way to go. It has been an education. We have been sending aloft four radiosonde balloons per day. One every six hours. Each device is carried aloft by a balloon filled with helium. The radiosonde sends back to the ship its location, direction of travel, velocity, and altitude as a result of the barometric pressure.

Question

Which gas law equation does one use to calculate the relationship between pressure and volume?

1400 hours and I have just been informed that my hands are needed to assist with the preparation and launch of an ozonesonde. 1500 hours and we have been informed that a DC3 out of Pease will rendezvous with us in about 30 minutes. An ozonesonde has many of the characteristics of the radiosonde but also has the capability to measure ozone levels at various altitudes. It also has a longer life span and stays aloft about 2 hours and 45 minutes. The DC3 is really an aerial platform which has equipment onboard to measure ozone. I have been informed that the DC3 is nearing our location so it is time to fill the balloon.

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 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.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 24, 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 24, 2004

Daily Log

I actually moved off the ship today and got a hotel room. All day there was a big meeting at the University of New Hampshire about 30 minutes from here. Scientists from the BROWN, from the airplanes, the land based measurement systems, those in charge of the satellite data, weather forecasting, and the computer models all gave short presentations. This was a big version of our nightly show and tell that we had on the BROWN. Because NEAQS-ITCT is such a huge research project, this meeting was necessary to help everyone know what has been happening in each part of the project and what should be done the next few weeks. It is kind of like a football team gathering in a huddle between plays.

Kevin will be the new teacher on the ship for the second leg of the research cruise. I showed him around the BROWN and introduced him to a number of the scientist. I also bought a new t-shirt. The BROWN helped re-explore the Titanic a few months ago and the Titanic shirts they ordered were delivered today.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 23, 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 23, 2004

Daily Log

Today was my last day and night on the BROWN. We spent last night off the coast of New Hampshire. We were scheduled to meet the pilot at 11:00 AM. The pilot is a person very familiar with the local port and he or she comes on board large ships and drives them into and out of the port. Since they know the harbor very well they can make sure the ship doesn’t run aground in what may be a very narrow channel. It was pretty cool to watch him jump from a small boat onto the rope hanging from the side of the BROWN while we were moving. Everyone was out on deck as we came up through the channel into Portsmouth. As we got to the dock the crew had the ropes out and ready. Tanker trucks of fuel were lined up ready to refuel the ship, which can hold about five tanker trucks worth of diesel. It was a bittersweet feeling to dock and be back ashore. It is good to be back but I am sure going to miss all of the people on board. I have learned so much from them, plus I enjoyed their company.

This evening we had a big New England style clambake at a beach. They fed us steamed calms and whole lobsters.

I finally met Jennifer Hammond. She is the person in charge of the Teacher at Sea Program and who got me on the BROWN and who gets the logs and pictures onto the web.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 22, 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 22, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 4:50 PM ET
Latitude- 42 49.88 N
Longitude- 70 15.46 W
Air Temperature 20 degrees C
Water Temperature 17 degrees C
Air Pressure 1011 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southwest
Wind Speed at surface 15 MPH
Cloud cover and type clear but hazy

Daily Log

Last night at sunset we were just out from Boston when we launched the radiosonde. The pollution levels were up and we had to look through a haze to see the downtown skyline. A sea breeze began blowing cleaner air to us from the east. Late last night we headed east to meet up with a couple of the airplanes this morning. The goal was to have us and two of NOAA’s research planes all under a satellite which will be orbiting overhead. Pollution measurements could be made at many different levels of the atmosphere plus instrument comparisons could be made.

Of course it was foggy again. Wayne Angevine, a meteorologist back on shore was looking at live weather satellite images and got word to us that close by was a clear spot in the fog. The flight crew in the airplanes confirmed what Wayne said. When we got to the latitude and longitude they had directed us to, we found clear skies. The plan worked. The planes flew by making their measurements, several satellites passed over head, the ozonesonde was launched, all of the instruments on the Brown were continuing to collect data and Drew and I did Sunops.

Later today the rest of the fog burnt off, but there was still a haze as we slowly made our way back to the west. We need to be in the vicinity of Portsmouth so that we can meet up with the harbor pilot tomorrow morning. The pilot will direct the ship back into Portsmouth at about noon. The timing is actually important because we need to go in at high tide. Tonight the plan is to continue back and forth through the urban pollution. Before we get to port tomorrow, a couple of the crew will be diving under the ship to do some maintenance that should be interesting to watch.

Today is my last full day at sea on the BROWN. This next week I will be visiting some of the land based scientists, facilities and activities involved in NEAQS. We get into port about noon tomorrow.

I asked some of the scientist what is the one thing my students should know about this research project on air pollution. Some of the statements were:

We are studying a very complicated situation with no simple answers.

To study something very complicated takes lots of coordination and cooperation from numerous organizations and a lot of people.

Air pollution is a global problem not a local problem. Even people in areas, like Redmond, OR, with little pollution should be concerned. Air pollution doesn’t stay where it is made. North America gets pollution from Asia, Europe gets pollution from N. America, Asia gets pollution from Europe.

Each one of us needs to realize that we are part of the problem.

Question of the Day

How can you be part of the solution not just part of the air pollution problem?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 19, 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 19, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time Noon ET
Latitude- 44 8.76 N
Longitude- 66 42.03 W
Air Temperature 12 degrees C
Water Temperature 9 degrees C
Air Pressure 1007 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface South
Wind Speed at surface 11 MPH
Cloud cover and type FOG!!!

Daily Log

Ozone can be a major pollutant but we don’t release it into the atmosphere, so where does it come from?

More fog!!! We are all getting tired of the fog. I wonder what the Nova Scotia coast looks like. We have been along the coast for awhile, but I only got a glimpse through the fog for a few minutes.

We followed the Boston pollution up here but now we are in clean air. It has been very interesting, for both the scientists and myself, to see how the kinds and amounts of the gases has changed as the pollution gets older. Leave a glass of milk in the sun on the kitchen counter for a few days and it will change. Air pollution floating in the air and cooking in the sun also changes.

Paul Goldan points out some of today’s data which shows that the air is coming from a pine forest. Every thirty minutes Paul’s equipment samples the air and measures the concentration of 150 different VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). Some VOC’s can be man made and others are natural. This morning’s data shows very low levels of human pollution but there are spikes in the graph for two chemicals that are released into the atmosphere by pine trees (the pine scent). We look at the wind profiler and see that the wind is blowing from Nova Scotia.

Avery Bell emailed and asked which pollutant is most potent. As I have mentioned, the two parts of air pollution are the gasses and the particles. According to several of the scientist on board, ozone and the very tiny particles are the two of most concern from a health standpoint. Small particles and ozone can both damage your lungs. For people who already have breathing problems (such as asthma or emphysema), it can make matters even worse. Ozone also damages plants, both wild and agricultural crops, reducing crop yields. The cost of agricultural losses was one of the first reasons that ozone became a concern.

Every day I spend time talking with some of the scientists who are here from NOAA’s Aeronomy Lab. They are studying ozone and many other gases in the atmosphere. To decrease ozone pollution is much more complicated than just saying let’s reduce the amount of ozone we release. We don’t release ozone into the atmosphere as a pollutant!!! It is made in the atmosphere when other gases combine in the presence of light.

Imagine you live in the desert and you plant a tree in your back yard. It of course needs water, air, nutrients from the soil and light to survive and grow. In your backyard it gets all of the light, air and nutrients that it needs; but imagine that you never water the tree. The tree survives because it gets a little rain, but it doesn’t grow much. Water is limiting its growth. If you water it a lot, the tree grows a lot.

High ozone levels occur in a similar way. For ozone to form, certain gases and sunlight have to be present. If there is only a small amount of those gases, only a small amount of ozone can form. But if there are a lot of those gases, a lot of ozone will form. In the unpolluted atmosphere, there are low amounts of the gases that are needed to make ozone. Guess what happens when we burn fuels to run our vehicles, to make electricity, to heat and cool our homes, and to make the products that we use every day. You guessed it; we release a lot of the gases that are needed to make ozone. Ozone can then reach the high levels necessary to become a health risk. It does not take that much ozone to be at a dangerous level. A level of 80 PPB (parts per billion) for 8 hours is considered too high.

It is very difficult to try and understand what 80 parts per billion really means but I’ll try to help. It takes about 31.7 years to have 1 billion seconds. Imagine how much air you would have if you took a breath every second for 31.7 years and blew all of the air into one balloon. Now imagine that 80 of those 1 billion breaths were ozone. The concentration of ozone in the balloon would be 80 PPB.

Questions of the Day

What are three activities that you do everyday that can add to the atmosphere the gases that help form ozone?

What can you do to reduce the amount of those gases that you are responsible for producing?

Based on the example in the last paragraph how many breaths of ozone could you have in the balloon if there was 1 PPB?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 18, 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 18, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 9:15 ET
Latitude- 44 01.29 N
Longitude- 67 13.5 W
Air Temperature 14 degrees C
Water Temperature 13 degrees C
Air Pressure 1015 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southeast
Wind Speed at surface 10 MPH
Clouds Cloudy

Daily Log

What do you do if the weather gets rough? (Besides get seasick and throw up.)

The weather forecast for tonight calls for strong winds and 15 foot waves (the ceiling in your bedroom is probably 8 feet high). The crew has been making sure that nothing is loose on the ship. Everything needs to be strapped, tied or chained down. If the ship is pitching and rolling a lot, you don’t want things flying around, otherwise someone could get hurt or something could get broken. We have also been instructed to make sure none of our own supplies are loose.

I spent some time visiting with Chris, a member of the deck crew. He has been on the BROWN for a little over two years. Before that he was working on commercial ships. He said the roughest seas he has sailed in weren’t that big, only about 20 foot waves. When the waves are closer together, he says it isn’t as rough as compared to when they are further apart. Chris said, as the ship climbs up a wave and then beaks over the top, if there is not another wave to land on, the ship drops down into the trough below. This makes for a lot rougher ride than when the waves are close together, and the ship can land on the next wave. After this cruise, he will be transferring to a higher position on another NOAA ship. Eventually, he would like to work back on shore for a fire department. A lot of the safety training he has received from being a deck hand on the ship would fit right into a fire department. As part of the deck crew’s training, he has received EMT (Emergency Medical Technician); fast boat and other rescue training and firefighting training. When your ship is at sea for a month or so at a time, 300 days a year, the crew really needs to be self sufficient. You are your on fire department and medical team; there may not be anyone close by to call.

Drew Hamilton now works at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle, but before that he worked on NOAA ships for 15 years. He said his first cruise with NOAA was in the middle of the Sargasso Sea in hurricane with 30 foot seas. Ten years ago he was on a ship delivering supplies to scientists working in Antarctica. For 4 days the ship fought its way through high winds and 30 foot waves. Almost everyone was sea sick, even the experienced sailors. It was a rough way to start his sailing career.

Sallie Whitlow, a scientist from the University of New Hampshire, has her instruments on top of a large container van on the bow of the ship. Once during a storm she was working on the equipment. When the waves started breaking over the bow, she decided it was time to go inside.

At this evening’s science meeting the new weather report shows that the storm is not going to be as intense as was previously thought. The rough seas probably won’t happen. Bummer, I was looking forward to an exciting ride.

Questions of the Day

What town and state was the ship from, that was lost in “The Perfect Storm”?

Where are we located compared to where that storm occurred?

Where is the Sargasso Sea?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 17, 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 17, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 6:20 PM ET
Latitude- 43 20.33 N
Longitude- 68 18.92 W
Air Temperature 17 degrees C
Water Temperature 14 degrees C
Air Pressure 1009 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southwest
Wind Speed at surface 7 MPH
Cloud cover and type Clear

Daily Log

How is it possible to tell if we are in pollution when we can’t even see it?

This morning I went through the normal routine of helping launch the ozonesonde at 10:00. Because it was a sunny day Drew Hamilton could make Sunop measurements throughout the afternoon so I helped with that. We specifically timed the Sunops so that we were taking measurements at the same times that three satellites were crossing overhead. The satellites were taking similar measurements looking down, while we were taking them looking up. Later, our measurements will be compared with those of the satellites.

In general, air pollution is a combination of particles and gases. I have discussed the particles in previous logs, but not much about the gases. A large number of the scientists involved in NEAQS-ITCT are studying these gases. I have spent a large amount of time talking with Eric Williams, Brian Lerner, Sallie Whitlow, Paul Goldan, Bill Kuster, Hans Osthoff and Paul Murphy. They have instruments on board which measure many of the different gases related to air pollution. But not all air pollution is the same.

The cause of the pollution determines what gases and particles are in the pollution. Gasoline powered automobiles release one combination of gas and particles. Diesel engines produce another combination. Coal burning power plants release yet a different combination. Natural gas power plants release (Yep, you guessed it) yet a different combination. In a city these get mixed together, so individual cities have there own unique pollution depending on the number of automobiles, power plants and factories. To make things more complicated, once these chemicals are released into the atmosphere and start mixing together, in the presence of sunlight they react with one another making additional gases and destroying others. What eventually happens to these pollutants and where they go, are two of the questions these scientists are seeking to answer. But answering these questions is very difficult, in part because things get extremely complicated very quickly. As Paul Goldan told me, part of the reason we need to make so many different kinds of measurements is because we are not even sure exactly what we are looking for.

Today as we criss-crossed back and forth through two plumes of pollution Eric showed me some of today’s data. As always, his instruments were measuring and recording some of the gases in the air. The quantities and kinds of gases changed as we went back and forth, helping to map where the pollution was located and how it has changed. Nothing looked different outside, but from the measurements he was taking he could tell that one of the plumes was younger than the other.

During the nightly meeting, Paul Goldan and Tim Bates presented completely different kinds of measurements that agreed with what Eric’s data showed. This comparing of daily observations will help confirm the accuracy of the observations and what they actually mean.

Questions of the Day

Where is the electricity in your house produced?

What kind of fuel is used to make your electricity?

What kind of fuel is burnt to make your automobiles run?

Who should be responsible for the pollution produced to make the electricity you use?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 16, 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 16, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:00 AM ET
Latitude- 42 44.24 N
Longitude- 70 41.99 W
Air Temperature 19 degrees C
Water Temperature 15 degrees C
Air Pressure 1002.6 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southwest
Wind Speed at surface 7 MPH
Cloud cover and type Partly cloudy

Personal Log

What do I do all day?

I received an email asking what life is like on the ship, and what my daily schedule is. The schedule revolves around breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is an hour for each and if you want to eat you had better be there at the correct time. Actually, the stewards do have snack foods out for us 24 hours a day, they feed us very well. There are always a lot of vegetables available and at least two main items to select from. For lunch today the main entrees were shrimp and hamburgers. (Check out the pictures.)

So my schedule: Keep in mind that nothing is very far away here on the ship so you don’t have to give yourself much travel time, everything is literally down the hall. In the morning I roll out of my bunk and walk the 5-10 feet to the shower. See the pictures of my stateroom. After a shower, shave (I skip that part), and brushing of teeth it is time for breakfast. Down the hall, up the stairs and through another hall. On the way to the mess hall I usually go outside to the railing, on deck to get some fresh air and to check the weather. Today it is a beautiful sunny day at sea.

Other than the rocking of the ship there is no way to tell what the weather is like while in the ship’s lower levels. There are no windows in the lower levels of the ship (that would be really dumb), and only small ones on the middle levels. At night, all windows are covered by metal plates, except for the windows on the bridge. The crew on watch, in the bridge, should not have their night vision compromised by light from the windows. In their around the clock observations, they need to be able to see out into the darkness. But back to my daily schedule.

Breakfast is served from 7:00 – 8:00 AM Eastern Time every morning. At 8:00 AM Tim Bates, the chief scientist, holds a morning science meeting to discuss the day’s plans and the weather forecast. This is usually a pretty short meeting. After the meeting, I usually try to finish typing up the previous day’s log. Around 10:00 AM Ann Thompson launches an ozonesonde which I generally help with. By the time we are through with the sonde, it is almost time for lunch which is served from 11:00 – 12:00. It is that time right now and I obviously haven’t completed the log.

After lunch I visit with one or more of the scientist about their research topic, data collection and measurements. On sunny days, I often help Drew make sun photometer measurements. By then it is time for dinner which is served from 4:30 – 5:00. (I told you the meals drive the schedule.) Afterward dinner and dessert I start typing the day’s log and also visit with the scientists some more.

At 7:30 PM there is another science meeting. It is a science version of show and tell, longer than the morning meeting. There is a discussion of what happened during the day in terms of where we went and what pollution was seen. Some of the data collected is reviewed and discussed. Usually someone will also discuss their specific research. Possible plans for the following day are debated. Following the meeting, I will sometimes visit the BROWN’s gym for a ride on the exercise bike. Eventually I find my way back down the halls to my stateroom and bunk.

This evening there was a very nice sunset so many of us enjoyed the view from the BROWN’s fantail.

So there you have, a day in the life of a teacher at sea.

Questions of the Day

What time do our breakfast, lunch and dinner start in Pacific Time?

What color of light can be used at night so you do not lose you night vision?

What can you do with your flashlight so that you can use it at night without losing your night vision?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 15, 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 15, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:00 AM ET
Latitude- 45 53.18 N
Longitude- 70 36.48 W
Air Temperature 14 degrees C
Air Pressure 1000 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Northeast
Wind Speed at surface 3 MPH

Daily Log

Yeah!!! The sun is trying to come out, the rains have stopped and the sea has calmed down. No I didn’t get sea sick, but it is hard to sleep when your bed is swaying back and forth and up and down. The winds have shifted and the scientists are hoping that the winds may be blowing some pollution our way. Seems like a strange thing to hope for, but of course they are here to study pollution and the wind has been blowing it away from us.

Why should anybody care if we add microscopic particles to the air?

Yesterday, I discussed one of the techniques used to study the microscopic particles that are in the atmosphere. But so what, why does anyone care about these tiny specks? Air pollution made by automobiles, power plants, factories and ships all contain both gases and particles. To be able to predict the changes resulting from air pollution, we have to learn all we can about the gases and the particles being released.

When the pollution is released into the atmosphere, the gases and particles start traveling with the air. (Just like pouring a quart of motor oil into a river.) Gradually the gases and particles spread out into the surrounding atmosphere. The gases can recombine and may start changing into other chemicals, but that’s another story I will get to soon.

The particles are not all the same. They come in different sizes and are made of a variety of chemicals. There are two main concerns about these little chunks floating along in the sea of gas; health hazards and climate change. If you take a breath, not only do you inhale the gas, but also all of the particles floating in the gas. Some of these particles may have a negative effect on a person’s health.

The main interest in the particles here on the BROWN is the effect they have on climate change. The Earth is of course warmed by the energy (light) coming from the sun. The more energy (light) the Earth gets and keeps, the warmer our temperatures. The less energy (light) the Earth gets and keeps, the cooler the temperatures. Pretty simple stuff? Not at all.

When sunlight shines down through the atmosphere and hits a particle the sunlight can either bounce off of the particle or be absorbed into the particle. If the light bounces back out of the atmosphere the Earth does not keep the light’s energy and there is a cooling effect. When light is absorbed into the particle, the energy (heat) will now be in the atmosphere and so there is a heating effect. Some particles absorb more light than others, so some have a cooling effect on the Earth’s atmosphere and others have a heating effect. One of the questions being asked is, overall do the particles cool the atmosphere or heat the atmosphere? This is not as simple of a question as it sounds, because there are also a lot of indirect effects that are not yet understood.

These microscopic chunks also affect clouds and cloud formation, but how much of an effect is not completely understood. The particles may cause clouds to be less likely to rain or at least, not rain as often. These microscopic particles in air pollution could have an effect on where and when it rains. So the scientists, here on the BROWN, are gathering data to help them try and understand the impact that particles will play in changing the Earth’s climate. Part of their task, is to determine where the particles are from, the numbers, sizes, and chemistry of the particles.

If I lost you in all of that, maybe it will help to put it all in a nutshell. These scientists are studying the type and number of particles in air pollution, to try and understand what effect these little chunks may be having on the Earth’s temperature and water cycle.

As Tim Bates said, we are trying to put together a large jigsaw puzzle and we don’t know what picture is on the puzzle. First we have to find all of the pieces. Then we have to put together the puzzle. We are now at the point that we think we have found most of the pieces and now we are trying to put them together. As you can see from the picture I sent in today there is some relaxation time, in the middle of all the data analysis.

Questions of the Day

The smaller particles are measured in nanometers how much of a meter is 1 nanometer?

If the wind is blowing 5 meters/second and we are 50 miles from Boston how long will it take Boston’s pollution to reach us?

Typical unpolluted air will have about 1000 particles in every cubic centimeter of air. What is something that has a volume of about 1 cubic centimeter?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 14, 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 14, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 10:20 AM ET
Latitude- 42 22.77 N
Longitude- 70 52.02 W
Air Temperature 16 degrees C
Air Pressure 1004 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Northeast
Wind Speed at surface 13 MPH
Cloud cover and type Stratus clouds and rainy

Daily Log

Why would anyone care if there are a few pieces of stuff 1000 times smaller than a grain of sand floating around in the air?

I visited one more piece of the elephant the past couple of days. To be more accurate, I have been visiting with some of the people who are studying another piece of the pollution elephant. I’ll call them the particle people. I have been visiting with Dave Covert, Tim Onasch, Tim Bates, Patricia Quinn, Theresa Miller, Kristen Schulz, Anders Petterson and Tahllee Baynard and Derek Coffman. These scientists are studying the particles that float in the air. Some particles are from human pollution and some are from natural sources. These chunks of stuff can be so small that it may take more than 250,000 lined up side by side to be an inch long, about 1000 times smaller than a grain of sand. Those are not even the smallest ones. Even though these particles are so tiny these scientists can find out what chemicals make up the particles and how many of the particles are in the air.

Amazingly, the scientists can sort out these very tiny chunks by weight. But as Paul Murphy told me the other day none of this is magic. A number of methods are used to sort the particles; here is the idea behind one of them. But you are going to have to use your imagination again. You are in a long narrow L-shaped hall. You look down the hall and at the end it makes a sharp turn to the left. You and a friend are going to have a race to the end of the L. But of course this isn’t a normal race. Each of you has an office chair in front of you. In your buddy’s chair is a very large person, your chair has a mouse. On your mark, get set, go!!! You both start pushing and running as fast as you can. One of the rules in our race is that you cannot slow down until you get to the end. Your friend is a major weight lifter and runner and so even though he is pushing a lot more weight the two of you are neck and neck, flying down the hall. Then you get to the sharp left hand turn. Remember this is a narrow hall and you can’t slow down. You and your mouse make the turn fine. Because of the heavy person in his chair your buddy can’t make the turn and hits the wall. You and the mouse end up at the end of the hall. Your buddy’s chair and passenger end up splattered against the wall.

But we were talking about microscopic particles in the air. The big white air inlet shown in pictures I sent yesterday pulls in air. Inside that large inlet are 21 smaller tubes which separate the air and sends it to different pieces of equipment. Some of the particles are removed from the air and are separated by size in a method similar to our race. A stream of the air, along with any particles that are in the air, quickly moves through a tube called an impacter. (In our race the mouse and person on the chair represent two different sized particles. You and your buddy are the air.) The air and any particles in the air have to make a sharp right hand turn. The largest particles can’t make the turn and they hit and stick to the “wall”. As the air moves through the tube, the air and remaining particles have to make progressively tighter turns. Each turn separates out a different sized particle. Those particles are collected off the wall and can be analyzed to determine what chemicals they are made of as well as weight and numbers of each size. Removing the particles from the impacter (the wall) needs to be done under controlled conditions so that contamination does not occur. Other techniques are then used to analyze the particles that are so small that they get through the “maze”.

While I have been on the ship there have been two main issues that I have been learning about. The first is learning about the techniques which the scientists use to study pollution. The second issue is: why make these observations and what will be done with them. Most of what I have described are the techniques that are being used. I have not written much about why the scientists are doing this and what they hope and expect to learn. More about that soon.

So why would anyone care about a few tiny particles anyway?

When the particles are breathed into a person’s lungs they can cause health problems. The particles may also have an impact on climate change, more about that in the next log.

Today the weather has again been cloudy, cool and rainy. The winds are blowing strong from the northeast which brings us clean air so we have moved south of the shipping lanes going into Boston to try and measure some ship exhaust. The swells are about 5 feet high and so the ship is rocking more than it has been. Everyone seems to be staggering about when they walk.

Questions of the Day

What are some of the main gasses which cause the greenhouse effect on Earth?

Where do the particles come from?

On average how long will they stay in the atmosphere?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 13, 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 13, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 11:30 AM ET
Latitude- 42 56.92 N
Longitude- 70 36.22 W
Air Temperature 17 degrees C
Wind Direction at surface East
Wind Speed at surface 20 MPH
Cloud cover and type Cloudy- Stratus
Air Pressure
11:30 AM 1014 Millibars
7:15 PM 1009 MB
10:15 PM 1008 MB

Daily Log

Look at what the air pressure has done today. What do you think our weather is like now at 11:00 PM (past my bedtime)?

Keep in mind that we are sitting out in the ocean in a ship, sometimes you can see land, other times you can’t. Rarely can we see any buildings much less a city. How are we supposed to know where to go to find some pollution? Especially if we are looking for particles that are too small to see and gasses that are colorless. Not to mention there may be less than 1 part per billion of that gas mixed in with the air. That is where Wayne Angevine and Jim Koermer come in. They are two meteorologists who are on shore. Twice a day they send us weather forecasts. Wayne works for NOAA and Jim is a professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. (Check out Jim’s website at vortex.plymouth.edu)

Based on their forecast, Wayne also sends recommendations for where we should go to find pollution. Today they are predicting that winds will be from the southeast and east through at least tomorrow. We know that pollution comes from automobiles, power plants, ships and factories. Although some of the chemicals involved in air pollution do also come from trees and other plants. Pollution of course blows with the wind so we want to be down wind of the pollution sources. If you look at a map to see where we are located the only thing east of us for a very long way is water, so easterly winds bring us clean air. There aren’t any cities or automobiles floating out here on the ocean, but there are ships. Wayne’s recommendation today was for us to move to Mass. Bay to get down wind of the shipping lanes and sample ship exhaust as they come by. That is what we have been doing most of the day.

Wayne says that possibly tomorrow afternoon the winds will shift and come from the southwest. If that happens Boston’s pollution will be flowing out over the water again and if that happens he suggest we sample it as we did yesterday, which was to zigzag back and forth across the plume coming from Boston. We couldn’t actually see it but we know where Boston is, we knew which way the wind was blowing and many of the instruments are measuring and recording what is in the air in real time. The captain also has charts that show how deep the water is so we didn’t run aground as we got close to shore.

It has been very interesting switching rolls from my normal job of being the teacher to the roll I am in on the ship which is, being the student. This past year after a particularly hard lesson one of my students said my brain hurts; now I know how he felt. This afternoon I went down to the ship’s gym to try and digest all that I have been learning the past two weeks, by working out physically rather than mentally. Plus I had to work off some of the great food the stewards feed us here on the Brown.

With the drop in air pressure the winds have picked up, it has started raining lightly and the ship is rocking and rolling. Nothing extreme, but it should rock everyone to sleep tonight.

We had another abandon ship drill today.

This afternoon we saw a pirate ship. Well ok it really wasn’t a pirate ship but it kind of looks like one, with its sails down and floating in the mist. It is actually a Mexican Navy training ship.

Questions of the Day

Today we had a low pressure system, what kind of weather can we expect if we have a high pressure system?

What activities do you that would create air pollution?

From which way is the wind blowing today, where you live?

What is up wind of you? What is downwind of you?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 12, 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 12, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:30 AM ET
Latitude- 42 47.28 N
Longitude- 70 42.29 W
Air Temperature 17
Air Pressure 1019 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southeast

Daily Log

Why are so many methods used to measure air quality, why not just one or two simple tests?

I received an email from Paige who is a student at Obsidian Middle School where I teach. She asked how air samples are taken and how air quality is measured. Those are two very big and good questions, without simple answers. This is one of the reasons that there are several hundred scientists working on NEAQS. I emailed Paige a fairly short answer but will give a more detailed explanation here. In some of the previous logs that I have written here on the BROWN, I explained some of the techniques somewhat in detail but I haven’t given you an overview, so here we go. Great questions Paige!!!

There are many different ways that the air is sampled and measured. In some cases, such as the LIDARs, samples are not taken at all. The LIDARs shoot light through the atmosphere, some of the light bounces back to the LIDAR, and this helps to measure some of what is in the air. The ozonesonde immediately and constantly measures the amount of ozone as the balloon rises through the atmosphere.

In other cases air is sucked into tubes mounted on towers at the front of the ship and the other end of the tube goes to the scientists’ equipment. (See the pictures, the big white upside down funnel and the smaller pink upside down funnel, are two of the inlets shown.) Sometimes samples are actually stored and in others the air quality is measured immediately.

Some of the instruments measure many chemicals such as one designed, built and run by Paul Goldan and Bill Kuster. It pulls in a sample of air every 30 minutes and in 5 minutes automatically measures about 150 different kinds of chemicals. It can measure the chemicals in parts per trillion. If you made some Kool-Aid that was one part per trillion, you would mix 1 drop of Kool-Aid into 999,999,999,999 drops of water. It certainly wouldn’t taste like Kool-Aid.

Other instruments measure one or just a few of the chemicals that are in the air. Today Hans Osthoff showed me a piece of equipment that he uses to measure air quality. He uses it to measure three specific chemicals in the air. One of Eric Williams’ instruments sucks in air and measures the amount of ozone every second, 24 hours a day.

Tim Bates showed me a number of pieces of equipment which suck in air and can used to find, in real time, the size and chemical composition of the particles that are floating in the air. These particles can be so small that it may take 250,000 or more laid side by side to be an inch long. Dave Covert and Derek Coffman showed me their equipment which removes particles from the air. These particles are then collected by Theresa Miller and Kristen Schulz who will analyze them. Some of the samples will be analyzed here on the ship and other samples will be analyzed once they return to Seattle.

So why not just one or two simple tests? Why so many?

Our atmosphere and the pollution in it are extremely complicated. Even though air is about 99% nitrogen and oxygen it also contains hundreds of other chemicals which are very important. Some are natural, some are man-made and some are both. This soup of chemicals is constantly changing and moving. To be able to understand pollution in the atmosphere we have to understand all of the parts. This goes back to the elephant I mentioned a few days ago. The more parts we observe and the more ways we observe the parts the better we will understand our elephant. If you feel the elephant’s leg you learn a little, if you use your nose and smell the elephant’s leg you learn a bit more, if you use your tongue and lick the elephant’s leg you will learn even more about the elephant. Understanding the pollution in our atmosphere is similar. Each type of measurement has advantages and disadvantages but each tells you more about the pollution and the atmosphere. Combined all together they can eventually give us an understanding of the whole elephant.

We had another abandon ship drill today.

Questions of the Day

What is the ozone level today where you live?

What is the level of particles where you live?

What is the maximum limit of ozone as set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)?

Hint: You can probably find these on the Internet.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 11, 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 11, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:00 PM ET
Latitude- 42 37.71 N
Longitude- 70 22.9 W
Air Temperature 17 C
Air Pressure 1018 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface Southeast
Cloud cover Partly cloudy

Daily Log

What famous event happen at Boston harbor?

It was a very eventful day today. The computer program that manages the wind profiler showed that there was a problem because one entire section was being shown in red instead of green. Dan Law asked if I would help him find out what was wrong. I jumped at the opportunity knowing that he really needed my expertise. I was very good at holding the wrench for him. As I was taking pictures of him and the inside of the profiler we were sailing into Boston Harbor. As we came into town our decks looked like those of a cruise ship. Most of the scientists were out on deck taking pictures and enjoying the view. Now everyone is back inside of their lab facilities which are mostly big shipping crates.

We spent most of the day in Boston Harbor near the end of Boston Logan Airport sampling the air in Boston. It was a beautiful weekend day and there were hundreds of sail and motorboats all around us. I didn’t see any tea floating in the water though. While soaking up the sun and enjoying the view of the harbor I helped Drew Hamilton, from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle, Washington take some measurements with an instrument call a sunphotometer which measures the total amount of particles in the column of air above the instrument.

In the afternoon we left Boston and specifically to follow a cruise ship. Its exhaust was visible in the air and we criss-crossed back and forth across the plume to see what chemicals were being released by the ship. After we left the cruise ship’s exhaust plume our ship stopped so that we could do the daily launch of the ozonesonde. A little while before sunset one of NOAA’s WP-3 airplanes circled us several times. It is also sampling and measuring the chemicals in the air as part of NEAQS. Comparisons can then be made of the plane’s measurements with those made here on the ship.

The weather report is for winds to be blowing from the southwest through tomorrow so the plan is for us to travel tonight to the northwest so that we will be in the pollution blowing from Boston.

Questions of the Day

What does NEAQS-ITCT stand for?

What will our bearing be tonight if we are going northwest?

How many kinds of planes are being used in NEAQS-ITCT?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 10, 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 10, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude- 42 26.72 N
Longitude- 70 01.99 W
Air Temperature 16.5 C
Air Pressure 1013 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface- Northeast

Daily Log

How can you become an officer on a NOAA ship?

The RONALD H. BROWN is run by a crew of 24. The stewards make sure we are well fed, the engineers keep the ship’s generators running, the deck hands manage the deck equipment, the survey tech runs the science monitoring equipment and the officers run the ship. The BROWN is fairly new– it was launched in 1996. Specifically built for ocean going research, it can work in the deep ocean and in shallower water along the coast. It is well suited to be used to study either the ocean or the atmosphere. About 9 months out of the year it can be found out on the ocean doing research. After our NEAQS research cruise ends in August, the BROWN and its crew will still be out at sea doing other research until next March. That is a long time away from home for the crew.

To get a job as an officer on one of NOAA’s ships, a person needs to have at least a Bachelors degree with specific requirements in math and science. There are physical fitness requirements as well. Once accepted a person must then attend a special mariner’s training school. Of course once you become an officer on a ship there is still lots of on the job training.

Today Lt. Liz Jones gave me a tour of the bridge. The ship does not have a propeller like many ships and it does not have a big wheel to steer the ship like you see in the movies. Instead of a propeller it has three thrusters. Each is kind of like a funnel turned sideways where the water goes in the big end and gets forced out the little end pushing the ship in the opposite direction. The three thrusters can be rotated individually and in a complete circle to push the ship in any direction. Even in an ocean current it can stay in one spot by using the thrusters. They can also be loud. The bow thruster is next to my stateroom. Sometimes it keeps me awake when it is turned on an off during the night. Instead of the big wheel, there are a couple of ways to maneuver the ship. On the bridge are three levers, one for each thruster. In some situations when you don’t want to worry about three different levers there is a joy stick that can be used to control the ship.

Lt. Jones said one of the main jobs a person has when on the bridge is to constantly be aware of the surroundings. Looking for other ships, keeping an eye on the weather and watching the charts to know the water depth are all extremely important. The BROWN can run on autopilot to make sure it maintains its course or position even if winds, waves or currents are pushing it in another direction. Even though the bridge is loaded with state of the art electronic equipment like GPS, radars, autopilot and depth finders the crew on watch still uses paper charts and binoculars so that they are not dependant on the electronics.

Questions of the Day

What is the NOAA Corps?

Which side of the ship is starboard and which side is port?

Which end of the ship is the bow and which is aft?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 9, 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 9, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 8:00AM ET
Latitude- 43 43.31N
Longitude- 66 15.13 W
Air Temperature 11 C
Air Pressure 1010 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface SE
Wind Speed at surface <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 1 Kilometer- E
Wind Speed at 1 Kilometer <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 2 Kilometers E
Wind Speed at 2 Kilometer <5 MPH
Cloud cover and type Fog

Daily Log

One of the blind men observed an elephant and said it is like a tree, another said it was like a rope, another said it is like a water hose. Which was correct?

This morning I visited with Christoph Senff and Rich Marchbanks. After lunch I visited with Alan Brewer. All three are here from NOAA’s Environmental Technology Lab in Boulder, Colorado. Chris and Rich are operating a LIDAR, which remotely measures amount of ozone in the atmosphere. Alan has a Doppler LIDAR which remotely measures wind speed and direction. By “remotely,” that means they can measure ozone and wind from 3-4 kilometers away. An amazing thing about many of the instruments on board is that they have been designed and built by the scientists themselves. They can’t just run down to some high-tech store and buy their equipment, what they need isn’t for sale anywhere. They decide what needs to be done, and then they design and build the equipment that will do the job. The LIDARS that are being used here on the BROWN and in the rest of NEAQS project are examples of some of that “homemade” equipment.

In the case here on the ship “homemade” certainly does not mean it is just thrown together, held up with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape. The LIDARS and the other instruments on board are extremely intricate, sophisticated and complicated devices.

To understand the very basics of how a LIDAR can detect ozone and air movement forget about LIDARS and just think about a normal flashlight. Pretend that you go outside in the middle of a completely dark night, no light from anywhere. Point your flashlight straight up and turn it on. Now imagine that there are a flock of white pigeons circling overhead, you will not see them unless the light from your flashlight hits them and then bounces back into your eye (hopefully it’s just the light that gets in your eye).

Now imagine that several of the pigeons poop and their poop is completely black and is between you and the pigeon. Yeah I know pigeon poop is usually white but for now pretend it is black. Because the poop is completely black when your beam of light hits the poop the light will not bounce off, instead it will be absorbed by the poop. The more poop in the air the more of the light is absorbed and less light bounces back to your eye.

Picture this. You are standing in the dark with your flashlight. The pigeons are circling over your head- between you and them is their poop. Quickly turn your flashlight on and then back off and measure the amount the amount of light that leaves. The light shoots up through the poop (which absorbs some of the light) and hits the pigeons. Some light bounces off the pigeons back through the poop and to your eye. You measure the light that comes back. By figuring out how much light was absorbed by the poop you can get an idea of how much is in the air above you.

Instead of visible light other wavelengths of light, like ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR), are used. Christoph, Rich and Alan use a laser rather than a flashlight and their LIDARs can turn the light on and off in nanoseconds. They can also measure many things about the light that leaves the laser and the light that returns.

Let’s take this one step further. Imagine that flashlight, dark night and poop and pigeons over head again. Also imagine that you can measure how long it takes for the beam of light to go out to some pigeons and then bounce back to your eye. If you know how fast the light is going you could calculate how far away they are and where the poop is located. If we put this all together and measure both how much light bounces back and how much time the light has traveled, you could determine the amount of poop at different distances.

Enough pretending and imagining, lets get back to the LIDARs. Light travels approximately 186,000 miles every second (it is about 25,000 miles around the equator) and the LIDARS can measure the time it takes the light to travel just a few hundred yards. Rich and Christoph’s ozone LIDAR is sensitive enough to measure ozone in parts per billion from 2-3 kilometers away and Alan’s LIDAR can measure wind speed and direction 3-4 kilometers away from here. They do this using a principal similar to the flashlight example, but obviously much more complicated. Chris and Rich’s ozone LIDAR uses a UV laser, picked specifically because its light will bounce off particles in the air (the pigeons) and be absorbed by ozone molecules (the pigeon poop). Allan uses an infrared laser that will bounce off particles floating and moving with the air. The particles, which are much too small to be seen would, as Allan said, seem like boulders to the beam of light.

What that all means, is that for the next six weeks along the ship’s path, the LIDAR’s will be measuring the amount of ozone pollution in the atmosphere, the wind speed and the wind direction.

The ozone LIDAR’s will eventually be used to show the amount and location of ozone pollution in the atmosphere from about 50 meters above the ocean surface up to 2-3 kilometers. The Doppler LIDAR data will be used to make a similar map of the wind speed and direction during the 6 weeks at sea. Eventually these and other data can be merged and compared.

What about those blind men examining the elephant? The first had grabbed the leg, the second had grabbed the tail and the third had grabbed the trunk. None of them of course had a complete picture of the elephant. During NEAQS-ITCT, hundreds of people are examining an elephant this summer. Individually they cannot give us a clear picture of the elephant. The elephant is air pollution. The more parts that can be accurately examined the better the picture. Instead of a trunk, tail and leg to observe, the scientist are examining the many kinds of chemicals in the pollution, the particles in the air, the movement of the pollution and the movement of the air. Different methods can be used to insure accuracy. Once each part of the elephant has been thoroughly examined and understood and all of the blind men evaluate their observations maybe they will have at least a partial picture of the elephant.

Question of the Day

What does LIDAR stand for?

How much of a second is a nanosecond?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 8, 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 8, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 9:08 AM ET
Latitude- 42 28.14 N
Longitude- 67 47.02 W
Water Temperature 7 C
Wind Direction at surface East
Wind Speed at surface <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 1 Kilometer- West
Wind Speed at 1 Kilometer <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 2 Kilometers West
Wind Speed at 2 Kilometer 5 MPH
Cloud cover and type Fog

Daily Log

What should we do if someone fell overboard or if we had to abandon ship?

Today we are just off the southern coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It has been foggy all day so we cannot see very far past the ship’s railing. If anyone fell overboard it would be extremely difficult to find them. With the water temperature at 7 degrees C a person would be hypothermic very soon if they were in the water.

I helped Anne again with today’s ozonesonde. The launch did not go as smoothly as yesterday’s. Before releasing the balloon the computer was not receiving a signal from the sonde. After Anne checked out a number of things that could be wrong we attached a different radiosonde, which is the part that sends the signal to the computer. With that change the problem was immediately solved. The sonde detected three layers of ozone pollution and of course the good ozone layer.

The ship’s crew keeps a written record of all ships sighted from the bridge. Today I typed the information into a computer spreadsheet. The scientists will then be able to compare these contacts to their pollution data.

Safety is a major concern on the ship. At school we have fire drills, here on the BROWN we have Abandon Ship and Man Overboard drills. Today when we heard the Abandon Ship alarm (6 short blasts from the whistle followed by one long blast), we rushed to our stateroom (bedroom), grabbed our life jacket, long pants, long sleeve shirt, hat and survival suit. If this were a real emergency we need to have clothes that will protect us from the weather and sun while we are floating in a life raft. We then rushed to our preassigned meeting areas on deck. One of the ship’s crew called roll. Afterwards we practiced putting on our bright red survival suits. The suits are designed to help keep us warm, floating and easy to see.

When the Man Overboard alarm was sounded (three long blasts from the ships whistle) the scientists and myself met in the main science lab to get a head count. Meanwhile as part of the drill, the crew had thrown a “dummy” overboard. They quickly launched one of the small boats and sped away to rescue the “man overboard”. The dummy was rescued quickly. If someone were to fall overboard while the ship is moving and no one realized they were missing, it would be very difficult to find and rescue them since we would not know how far away to look.

Questions of the Day

What is the maximum amount of ozone pollution an area can have without being in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards?

What is the temperature of the water in degrees F here off the coast of Nova Scotia?

What is the bridge of a ship?

What does hypothermic mean?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 7, 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 7, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude- 42 30.79 N
Longitude- 70 33.32 W
Air Pressure 1011.28 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface NW
Wind Speed at surface <10 MPH
Wind Direction at 1 Kilometer- WNW
Wind Speed at 1 Kilometer <10 MPH
Wind Direction at 2 Kilometers W
Wind Speed at 2 Kilometer 10 MPH
Cloud cover and type Clear

Science and Technology Log

We hear a lot about the hole in the ozone layer and that the ozone layer is being destroyed, however, in a lot of areas we also hear that the ozone levels are often too high. How can we have too little and too much at the same time?

A number of the scientists on board are studying ozone. I spent a large part of today with one of them, Anne Thompson. Anne is a chemist who works for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. While on the BROWN she plans to launch an ozonesonde once a day. Like the radiosondes they are carried high into the atmosphere by a helium balloon. However, the balloon has to be a lot larger because it lifts a bigger package. Anne has a radiosonde and a GPS riding piggy back on the ozonesonde. All three instruments will be packaged and duct taped together. Preparing the sonde is a tedious and time consuming task. Many steps must be performed to insure that the device runs correctly and measures accurately. It will need to detect the amount of ozone in parts per billion. The steps must be completed on a set time table; some must occur a few days and others a few hours before release. Filling and launching the balloon is the fun and easy part (it also makes the best pictures) but it must be done correctly to protect the balloon and to make sure that the balloon is filled enough, but not too much.

Today’s launch, ascent and data collection went flawlessly. The ozonesonde was released at 10:05 AM ET. It was really cool because the computer was immediately receiving signals from the sonde. In real time we watched as the ozone levels were instantly graphed by the computer as the balloon ascended. It rose at a rate of 4-5 meters/second. At first the amount of ozone was at an acceptable level but once the balloon reach about 3 kms, ozone levels increased and but then dropped. This was a layer of ozone pollution. Another layer of pollution was detected at about 6 kms. Once the instruments reached about 17 km, the graph showed a major increase in the amount of ozone. This was the good ozone layer. About 2.5 hours after launch when it was 38.6 kms (about 23 miles) high, the balloon popped and everything fell back to Earth still collecting data.

As part of this study five other sondes were released on land. The data from all 6 launches have already been used by the computer modelers. They have made their predictions of where the ozone polluted layers of air will be three days from now.

So how can there be both too much and not enough ozone? The simple answer is: when the ozone is way above the Earth’s surface, like that measured at 17 +kms, by today’s ozonesonde, the ozone will block some of the sun’s UV rays which can be harmful to life on Earth. If there is not enough ozone in that layer, too much of the harmful UV rays get to the Earth’s surface.

However, too much ozone can be harmful for people to breathe, especially for those people who have asthma or other breathing problems. If there is too much ozone close to the Earth’s surface, like the layers measured at 3 and 6 kilometers today, the ozone gas can threaten people’s health.

Questions of the Day

What is the speed of the ozonesonde in miles per hour?

At what altitude do airliners generally fly?

In which layer of the atmosphere is the “good” ozone?

In which layer is the “bad” ozone?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 6, 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 6, 2004

Daily Log

If you are standing on the ground, or in our case floating on the ocean, looking up into clear skies how could you tell the speed and direction of the wind a mile or two above you?

I spent the morning with Dan and Michelle who are from NOAA’s Environmental Technology Lab in Boulder, Colorado. Dan spent most of the morning showing me how the wind profiler he designed, can determine the wind speed and direction at any point above the ship, up to 6 kilometers in altitude. Dan was the chief engineer in designing NOAA’s wind profiler network, which has facilities strategically located across the United States. One of the phased-array radar wind-profilers is also installed on the BROWN. The profiler uses radar to remotely detect wind speed and direction in the column of air above our location. Five radar beams are aimed upwards from the ship, one looks straight up and the other four look upwards but at a slight angle. The radar signals bounce off turbulence in the air (kind of like air bubbles in a flowing river) and are then picked up by an antenna back at the profiler. The instrument then combines the signals from the five beams and determines the wind speed and direction at any point above the ship, up to about 6 kilometers (km). The computer monitor on the profiler gives a constant readout of the air’s movement. The chart this morning is showing that the air from the surface to about 3 km has shifted considerably both in speed and direction during the past 24 hours as a weak cold front passed through. However, the air above 3 km did not change its speed and direction much at all.

Dan and Michelle will also be launching radiosondes (commonly called weather balloons) four times a day. The radiosonde is attached to a large helium balloon. As it is rises through the atmosphere it measures relative humidity, air temperature, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction. Normally the sonde will rise to a height of 50,000 – 60,000 feet before the balloon burst and the radiosonde falls back to Earth. So this afternoon we went to the aft (back) of the ship. There Dan filled the balloon with helium until the balloon was about four feet in diameter. He then attached the radiosonde, which is smaller than a paperback novel, so that it was hanging from the bottom of the balloon. Once the computer had a good signal from the radiosonde’s Global Positioning System (GPS) he released the balloon. We all went back inside to the computer monitor that was graphing the relative humidity, air temperature, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction as the balloon ascended.

In the evenings after dinner the scientists have show and tell time. Different research groups showed some of the data that was collected today and gave a status report of how their equipment is working.

Questions of the Day

Why would the helium balloon burst as it reaches high altitudes?

How many MILES high can Dan and Michelle’s wind profiler determine wind speed and direction?

What is a GPS used for?

Kirk Beckendorf, July 5, 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 5, 2004

Personal Log

I woke this morning in my bunk, which is a good thing since it is a long way to the floor from my top bunk. It may be a long way to the floor but it is not very far to the ceiling. I cannot sit up in bed without hitting the ceiling.

I talked to Wayne, one of the engineers on the BROWN, who helps keep the ship’s engines running. He and some of the crew needed to work on one of the small boats kept on the ship for excursions off the BROWN. It had to be lowered down to the water from about two stories high where it is kept secured in place. Wayne has had his job with NOAA on the BROWN for about 2 years. Before that he was a guide on fishing and scuba boats in Florida and the Cayman Islands. He loves working on the BROWN since he gets to travel all over the world. One of his favorite places to visit is Brazil because the people are so friendly.

Tim, the chief scientist, called a science meeting at 10:00 this morning. The meeting was to answer any final questions before we leave port this afternoon. He also wanted to make sure everyone has settled into their staterooms and have what they needed. Someone asked him where they could get soap. He explained where we could find soap, toilet paper and other similar items. One of the scientist mentioned that if we used toilet paper we wouldn’t need so much soap.

During the day I visited with Graham Feingold. He will be one of the many scientists working on shore throughout the project, he hopes to be analyzing data on aerosols and clouds. Aerosols are very fine particles that are suspended in the atmosphere. They have major effects on climate change. Graham hopes to learn more about the effect the aerosols have on clouds and water droplets. Water droplets can form around these particles. If there are more of the particles for moisture to attach to, fewer but smaller drops may form. Since the drops may not get very large they may not be heavy enough to fall out of the cloud. What effect that will have on precipitation patterns and climate is unknown?

The warm sunny days left today. This morning began with cloudy skies which have persisted throughout the day. We were scheduled to depart Portsmouth at 4:00 PM but were delayed because of a large ship which came into port. There was not room in the channel or under the bridge for both of us. Even though there was a cold drizzle when we left the dock, everyone was still out on the decks watching as we pulled away. The bridge was raised so that we could get underneath and the BROWN headed out the river channel into a misty gray sea. Once away from land we turned south down the coast towards Boston.

The plan is to stop just north of the shipping lane, the “two lane highway” large ships must use to enter Boston Harbor. The forecast is for the winds to be blowing relatively clean air towards us from the shipping lane. As the wind blows the passing ship’s exhaust across the BROWN, our instruments will measure the specific chemicals in the pollution. By comparing the polluted air to the clean air, the instruments on board can be used to determine the chemical makeup of each ship’s pollution. It is critical that the bow of our ship is pointed into the wind, otherwise the BROWN’s exhaust would blow into the scientists’ instruments.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 4, 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 4, 2004

Science and Technology Log

Imagine a chunk of polluted air over a city or an individual power plant. How could you find that same air in 2, 3 or 4 days?

This morning in Portsmouth, I ate breakfast with Wayne Angevine who works at NOAA’s Aeronomy Lab in Boulder, Colorado. It will be his job during this air quality study to predict where that polluted air will be in the next few days. He and the other meteorologist working with him, will not only be predicting how far and in which direction the air has gone, but also how high it is.

These predictions can then be used to direct the airplanes and the ship being used in the NEAQS study to that “chunk” of air so it can be sampled and measured to determine how the pollutants have changed from day to day.

Although 31 scientists and I will be on NOAA’s RONALD H. BROWN, the ship is just one part of NEAQS. Wayne and dozens of other modelers and scientist will be coordinating the project from Pease International Trade Center in New Hampshire. Approximately one dozen aircraft from Europe to the Midwestern US will be collecting data. A number of land based sites will also be collecting weather and air quality data. All of this information will help the project managers determine their next move on a daily basis and what happens to New England’s pollution once it has been released it into the atmosphere.

Personal Log

This afternoon at my hotel I loaded my duffel bag of clothes, my laptop and cameras into a cab and set off for the BROWN. When I arrived, the gate in the chain link fence surrounding the port area was locked and I didn’t know the combination. I unloaded all my bags on the ground, paid the cab and waited. Eventually, someone leaving the ship came through the gate and I was able to get in. A Lieutenant on board took me to my stateroom and gave me another quick tour of the ship. The rest of the afternoon I spent visiting with some of the scientists. I will give a more detail explanation of what they do once we get under way but Bill Kuster showed me his two instruments which measure specific kinds of molecules in the atmosphere. One measures in real time and the other takes samples every 30 minutes. The samples are later analyzed. I then visited with Anne Thompson who studies ozone and will be launching ozonesondes once a day.

Question of the Day

What is an ozonesonde?