Leg 3 of the Project DYNAMO research cruise began, on November 6, 2011 from Phuket, Thailand at approximately 1430. The DYNAMO Leg 3 research cruise consists of seven scientific groups conducting experiments in the following areas:
NOAA High Resolution Doppler LIDAR
My primary role on this cruise is to work with the Ocean Mixing group led by Dr. Jim Moum from Oregon State University. The Ocean Mixing Group is responsible for sonar measurements of ocean current profiles, high frequency measurement of acoustic backscatter, turbulence/CTD profiling instruments and near surface CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) measurements. I will be working with other scientific groups as needed and have organized my Teacher at Sea blog to report on daily activities by science group.
We have been cruising for a couple of days to the sampling station in the eastern Indian Ocean and are still within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Thailand, India, and other countries. Here is an interesting fact that I learned about the EEZ – it not only applies to resources, but also applies to data collection. What this means to the R/V Revelle, is that the scientists cannot collect data until the ship clears the 200 nautical mile EEZ for the counties. After clearing the EEZ, the science groups can begin data collection.
Data collection began on the ship on November 8 and one of the first groups I observed was the Atmospheric Soundings group. This group is responsible for launching radiosondes using helium balloons (weather balloons). A radiosonde is an instrument that contains sensors to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. Although the balloons can hold up to 200 cubic feet of helium, on this cruise, each balloon is filled with 30-35 cubic feet of helium. As the radiosonde ascends, it transmits data to the ship for up to 1 ½ hours before the weather balloon bursts and falls into the ocean. The weather balloons have been reaching an average altitude of 16 km before bursting. Approximately 260 weather balloons will be launched during Leg 3 of the cruise.
Watch the video clip below to watch the deployment of a weather balloon.
The Ocean Mixing group began the deployment of XBTs (Expendable bathythermographs) on November 10, 2011. XBTs are torpedo shaped instruments which are lowered through the ocean to obtain temperature data. The XBT is attached to a handheld instrument for launching by a copper wire. Electronic readings are sent to the ship as the XBT descends in the ocean. When the XBT reaches 1,000 meters, the copper line is broken and the XBT is released and falls to the bottom on the ocean.
I arrived in Phuket, Thailand on November 3, 2011 after a 19-hour plane ride. After dinner and a good night’s sleep, I went to the ship to get acquainted with my new home for the next 6 weeks. Select the link below for a tour of the R/V Revelle.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown July 11 – August 10, 2009
Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic) Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic Date: July 14, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge
Outside Temperature 26.01oC
Relative Humidity 89.26
Sea Surface Temperature 28.3oC
Barometric Pressure 1015.9 inches
Latitude 8o 53.96 N Longitude 48o 05.43 W
Science and Technology Log
We released our first radiosonde this morning. These balloons have instruments attached to them that will measure atmospheric pressure, temperature and relative humidity as they go up into the atmosphere. As the balloon rises, it expands as the atmospheric pressure outside the balloon decreases. After about 2 hours the balloon bursts and falls back into the ocean. Four of this particular type of radiosonde will be released every day. This data is used as input for weather prediction models, weather and climate change research, input for air pollution models and ground truth for satellite data.
We also deployed our first global drifter this afternoon. A surface drifter consists of a buoy and a sea anchor. The drifters have sensors that can measure sea surface temperature and the ocean current. Information is collected by the sensors and uploaded to a passing satellite and then transmitted back to Earth where all the information from all the drifters give us a better picture of what is happening out in the ocean. Drifters are deployed from hurricane hunter aircraft so we can better predict and understand hurricanes. Data from drifters was used to determine where floating debris would be found shortly after the disappearance of Air France flight 447 on May 31, 2009. For more information on the NOAA Global Drifter Program, visit their website.
I have received a couple of emails asking about the food on the ship. We have three meals a day and there is quite a selection. For breakfast, you can have pancakes, eggs, sausage, oatmeal, fresh fruit or a selection of dry cereal. For lunch, it really varies; today there was a salad, hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries. Dinner also varies, but so far we have had fish, ribs, chicken and a salad. There is also a veggie option for each meal. Coffee, tea and other beverages as well as some snack items are pretty much available 24 hours.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown November 6 – December 3, 2008
Mission: VOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific Date: November 11, 2008
Science and Technology Log
The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared, Merrily did we drop, Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top – Coleridge
Finally, it is time to cast off. For days the scuttlebutt has kept us guessing about what has been holding up the cruise. It is approaching Midnight and dock workers have suddenly arrived, crew is adjusting lines and has flushed the birds, and new sounds and rumbling from the engine room are emanating through the deck. I am half asleep, lying in my bunk, and starting to hear announcements from the bridge that remind me of HAIKU: All stations report. Testing bow thrusters. Visitors must leave the ship. Cast off lines.
The Ron Brown has come to life! Leaving port is complicated since even the most experienced captain is usually in strange waters. For this reason, a local ship’s pilot is taken onboard to guide us. Thoreau wrote about the pilots off of Cape Cod in the 1800’s and describes how after lookouts spotted a vessel, pilots would race their sailboats to claim the fee for guiding the ship safely to port. Our pilot boarded with great fanfare and salutations from the deck hands. Even though it was calm, it can be dangerous transferring between vessels. Once aboard, he headed to the bridge to take over the wheel.
Hands-on training started immediately. Our first task was to use a sonde to take radio soundings of the atmosphere above the ship. Radiosondes are lifted by balloons and as they rise, broadcast atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity data to the ground station. (In this case the lab on the ship.) This allows atmospheric scientists to record a slice of the air up through the cloud levels through most of the troposphere, where our weather is generated. Radiosondes can also be modified to conduct ozone and radioactivity soundings for pollution studies, but the emphasis of the VOCALS research is the marine layer and its interaction (linkage) between the ocean and atmosphere. Here in the Southeast Pacific, away from continents and major cities, the air should be some of the least polluted on the planet.
Radar reflectors and parachute accessories are available too, but not needed out here since recovery is not an option. Once the balloon reaches low enough air pressure, it expands too much and bursts, and the unit falls into the ocean. (Now, before you start worrying about sea turtles swallowing balloons and meteorologists littering the ocean…this was my first question, and I was told that these materials deteriorate rapidly once they are removed from the hermetically sealed foil containers.)
Many students will state that observing weather and collecting data was the “hook” that got them interested in science; and that certainly applies to me too. As an elementary student helping Mr. Giffin and Mr. “Z” set up mercury column barometers, and seeing 16mm movies of “real scientists” launching weather balloons, really piqued my curiosity. And here I am, so many years later, sending up my own balloons – and for that matter, launching them off a ship in the middle of the ocean!
The science of radiosondes has been around since before WWII and is fairly straight forward. First, read the SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS FOR BALLOON OPERATORS:
Do not use in an area with power lines or overhead obstructions.
Do not use without consultation and cooperation with aviation authorities. (We will not see any air traffic here, except the scheduled flyovers from VOCALS research aircraft.)
Use extreme caution if generating hydrogen gas. (No problem. We use helium; but I did have a flashback of our grandmother Hinemon’s tale about witnessing the Hindenburg explosion from the family farm near Lakehurst, NJ.)
The balloon film is only 0.05 mm thick upon launch, so ensure that there are no sharp or pointed objects nearby. (That seems pretty obvious now, doesn’t it Homer Simpson?)
And finally, the Dennis the Menace clause: It is not advisable to deflate the balloon if it is leaking. Instead, release the balloon without a load.
The units we send aloft are made in Sweden and have a small GPS omni-directional receiving antenna that looks like an eggbeater; a 9-inch wire broadcast antenna; and a thin metal sensor “boom” for temperature and humidity. Power is supplied by a curious little low voltage battery that is activated when soaked in water for a few minutes while the sonde is calibrated by the radio receiver and computer. There are a dozen steps to remember for a successful flight. First the unit is unpacked from its shipping container. Then it is checked to confirm it is functioning and calibrated to the local conditions of temperature, pressure and humidity; as well as the current latitude and longitude. Fortunately the ship monitors these conditions continuously, so you just have to punch in the numbers prior to release. There is a science to filling the balloons. Too much Helium and it rises too fast for the sensors to record good information. Too little Helium and it may hit the water and malfunction. (You don’t get any second chances!)
Once the balloon is filled, and any messages you wish to photograph are attached to it, clearance is requested from the bridge by letting the duty officer know you will be on the “lee side of the stern” to launch it. Just like when you are seasick…this keeps things blowing away from the boat, instead of in your face. I thought I was clever putting our college logo and president’s name on one, until I saw the Great Pumpkin – a well-decorated balloon that made it to a whopping 23,464 meters on Halloween! (Not to be outdone next time, I am working secretly at night on a Thanksgiving turkey design.) The wind has been remarkably gentle most days, but with the ship rocking and steaming ahead constantly, handling a large balloon while zigzagging across deck between equipment and storage boxes can be challenging, especially in the dark. Sounding balloons are sent up every four hours, so the work is shared by everyone. There is a friendly competition to see whose makes it the highest and gets the best data.
Note the details in the above image of data from a sounding balloon. Air PRESSURE (Green line) decreases to 25.7 hPa and the balloon finally bursts. The unit then plunges back to the ocean and pressure increases back to “normal” sea level values. HUMIDITY (Blue line) shows three (3) peaks (About 95%, 75%, and 15%. The highest humidity is at sea level and when the sensor reaches cloud level. The next sharp peak is moisture moving south from the ITCZ (Meteorological Equator). The small, wide peak is probably Cirrus clouds that were seen earlier before the lower Stratus clouds moved in to block our view. TEMPERATURE (Red line) decreases with height and humidity until the sonde reaches the Tropopause, then begins to rise where higher intensity UV light adds heat. At the top of the image, all three lines merge as the sonde plunges back to sea level.
From the flow of data while this remarkable little instrument is aloft, we can study the decreases in temperature and pressure, and the changes in humidity from sea level to the moment the balloon reaches the bottom of the clouds. An hour or two later, the computer screen even shows the poignant moment (For the launch person, at least), and the decent rate when the balloon bursts and falls back to Earth.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down and still somehow, It’s cloud’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all. – Joni Mitchell
I have the best cabin on the ship! Below us is the freshwater tank – the Brown produces over 4,000 gallons of freshwater every day (About 30% more than is needed) and the sloshing of all that water each time we rock not only drowns out the noise of the ship, but it sounds to me like I’m right on the surface of the water. Falling asleep, I dream that I’m Thor Heyerdahl on Kon-Tiki!
As soon as we hit the open sea you could see some people getting uncomfortable, but as always, “Doc” was on top of it dispensing sea-sickness tablets and in a very few cases, injections. Within a day everyone was moving about and within two days even the dizziest landlubber was up for duty and at every meal. There are few things worse than mal de mer. In part because, as the fishermen like to say, you can’t buy the boat from the captain once you are out there. Years ago on a long and stormy cruise to Madiera, I was issued an experimental device that was part of a NASA trial to treat motion sickness. It was a CD player with headphones that were flat plates fitted behind your ears, which sent out random vibrations to “reset” your middle ear. It reminded me of one of those hearing tests you got in grade school, and seemed to help. However, when I quizzed the ship’s surgeon Dr. Bob (Ex-marine, Vietnam-era Army helicopter pilot, emergency room specialist; trainee in NASA’s early space program, humanitarian and great storyteller) about how his gadget works, he only shrugged his shoulders and replied, “We haven’t a clue.”
As it turns out, even NASA doesn’t understand why 80% of us get motion sickness at some point in our lives; but current research is pointing away from the traditional disoriented “middle ear” hypothesis. Over the years I have had success with my own remedies, including: acupressure, ginger cubes, Coca-Cola (Not a commercial endorsement) and as a last resort, over-the-counter remedies with Meclizine. They seem to do the trick, but this night as we sail west to Point Alpha, all I needed to put myself to sleep was Richard Rodger’s soothing tango from the US Navy’s classic WWII Victory At Sea documentary – Beneath the Southern Cross.
“The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship.” (Sir William Monson’s “Naval Tracts”)
The world’s worst tale of seasickness? As told by Ulysses S. Grant in his Memoirs
One amusing circumstance occurred while we were lying at anchor in Panama Bay.
In the regiment there was a Lieutenant Slaughter who was very liable to seasickness. It almost made him sick to see the wave of a table-cloth when the servants were spreading it.
Soon after his graduation [from West Point] Slaughter was ordered to California and took passage by a sailing vessel going around Cape Horn. The vessel was seven months making the voyage, and Slaughter was sick every moment of the time, never more so than while lying at anchor after reaching his place of destination.
On landing in California he found orders that had come by way of the Isthmus [Panama], notifying him of a mistake in his assignment; he should have been ordered to the northern lakes.
He started back by the Isthmus route and was sick all the way. But when he arrived back East he was again ordered to California, this time definitely, and at this date was making his third trip. He was sick as ever, and had been so for more than a month while lying at anchor in the bay.
I remember him well, seated with his elbows on the table in front of him, his chin between his hands, and looking the picture of despair.
At last he broke out, “I wish I had taken my father’s advice; he wanted me to go into the navy; if I had done so, I should not have had to go to sea so much.”
Poor Slaughter! It was his last sea voyage. He was killed by Indians in Oregon.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown October 8 – 28, 2006
Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile Date: October 19, 2006
Weather from Bridge
Visibility: 12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction: 130º
Wind speed: 20 knots
Sea wave height: 5-7ft
Swell wave height: 3-4 ft
Sea level pressure: 1020.4 millibars
Sea temperature: 19.4ºC or 66 ºF
Air temperature: 19.2ºC or 66ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus
Today we will be interviewing Dan Wolfe, a senior meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA for short. Standing an imposing 6’3”, it seemed only fitting that our next scientist should be studying the heavens. Mr. Wolfe is a 30-year veteran of NOAA and has been a scientist for the past 31 years. Mr. Wolfe entered the Coast Guard in 1969 immediately after graduating high school. He was initially assigned to the Coast Guard icebreaker “Glacier” transferring to the oceanographic unit where he staged scientific experiments. He traveled to the Arctic and it was there that he discovered his soon to be life long passion for the atmosphere and all that is in it. Mr. Wolfe was a trained scuba diver while stationed on the Glacier. After leaving the Coast Guard he attended Metropolitan State College where he earned his degree in meteorology. He has the distinction of being the first student to graduate in meteorology at this college. It was while at Metropolitan College that Mr. Wolfe became a coop student working for NOAA. After earning his degree he went to work for NOAA as a meteorologist where for the next 30 years he has become one if its leading atmospheric scientists. After seven years on the job he decided that he wanted to know more and enrolled at Colorado State University where he earned his masters degree.
Mr. Wolfe is one of the few individuals who has worked in BOTH the Arctic (North) and the Antarctic (South) (not just Antarctica but actually at the South Pole). His work has taken him to the depths of the Grand Canyon and to the Arctic more times than he cares to remember.
One of his more exciting job assignments with NOAA is managing a 1,000-ft research tower just off of I25 north of Denver Co. When I asked Mr. Wolfe what message he would like to give to upcoming scientists he replied, “Kids should seek out paid/or unpaid internships while in high school. Look for internships within your community in careers that you think you might like. This gives you the opportunity to try a job before investing money and time in college in a future you may not enjoy. If you try a job and discover you don’t like it, try something else until you find something you do like. Be sure to give the job a chance though.”
One important scientific instrument used by a meteorologist is the radiosonde (pronounced radio sond). This device measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds by utilizing the global positioning satellite system. The radiosonde is battery activated then secured to a large helium balloon. It is then released where it begins its ascent into the upper atmosphere, measuring humidity, temperature, and pressure sending these data back to the scientist via a digital radio frequency. Depending on the balloon used, these radiosondes can obtain heights in excess of 6 miles. The atmospheric data collected on this cruise will be shared with other scientists to help improve global weather computer models.
There is no experiment as these data are transmitted via satellite link immediately after the flight is finished to the National Center for Environmental Prediction to be fed into their continuously running forecast models.
Ask the students, “What is weather?” “Why is it important to predict the weather?” Have the students take a piece of drawing paper and divide it into four equal parts. In each part have the students draw and color four different types of weather common to where they live. Example could be sunny, rainy, partly cloudy, and snow.
Why do we use calibrated thermometers to measure air temperature? Ask students to answer on paper whether the classroom is hot, warm, cool, or cold and to estimate the actual temperature of the room. Then compare the students’ answers to the actual temperature. Then discuss the importance of a “standard.” Without this “standard” scientists around the world would have no way of communicating what the atmosphere is doing.
Please examine the High School for more activities
Everyday we hear on the radio, television, or newspaper that it will be sunny, partly cloudy, partly sunny, etc. How do meteorologist arrive at this? Today we will learn how.
Divide the sky into eight parts. Examine each part and count how many squares have clouds. There is no hard and fast rule on what to do with partially filled boxes
No squares having clouds-Clear or Sunny
One to two squares having clouds-Mostly Clear or Mostly Sunny
Three or four squares having clouds-Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny
Five, Six, or Seven squares having clouds-Mostly Cloudy
Eight squares having clouds-Overcast or Cloudy Take the sky photo below and print it out. Draw a grid like the one above on top of the sky photo. Have the students write down what they think the day is. Then compare the student’s answers. Is this an exact science?
Have your teacher take photos of the weather in your area and do your own.
Rodrigo Castro and Carolina Cisternas are research technicians from the University of Concepcion in Concepcion, Chile. They joined the cruise at Panama City and have been taking ocean water samples every 60 nm. Their samples are run through 0.7 and 0.2 micron filters. They capture and freeze particulate organic mater by this process and take it back to the lab at the university. The samples are analyzed for the presence of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. These samples are then used as biomarkers to help determine the circulation of ocean water. A second analysis will be going on to locate the gene associated with nitrogen-fixing organisms. This is new ground for the scientists at the university.
Upwellings are areas where deep ocean water comes to the surface. According to Rodrigo and Carolina there are four significant areas of upwelling along the Chilean coast. The two most northerly are found at 20 degrees south and 24 degrees south. These are active year round and are slow and steady with no significant seasonal fluctuation. Another at 30 degrees south is moderate in nature with some seasonal variation, being more active during the summer. The most southerly is at 36 degrees south and is strong September to April. However it mostly disappears the rest of the year. Upwelling zones are recognizable because of their cooler water temperature. They also have increased nutrients that are brought up from the deep and a higher amount of chlorophyll due to increased photosynthetic activity. Some fish species are found in greater abundance in these zones due to increased nutrients extending into more food availability.
The RONALD H. BROWN is under way. We are steaming in an easterly heading on the leg of the cruise that will take us to Arica, Chile. It is a bit of a challenge for me, as we are no longer headed into the direction of the swells; instead, we are crossing them at a 30-degree angle, which makes for more oscillations in the movement of the ship. My tummy is being challenged.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown September 25 – October 22, 2005
Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific Date: October 14, 2005
Weather Data from Bridge
Temperature: 19 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1016 mb
Relative Humidity: 70%
Clouds cover: 8/8, stratocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 120 degrees
Wind speed: 16kts.
Wave height: 3 – 4’
Swell wave height: 4 – 5’
Swell direction: 120 degrees
Seawater Temperature: 18.3 degrees C
Salinity: 35 parts per thousand
Ocean depth: 4364 meters
Science and Technology Log
A big day today! We managed to deploy the Stratus 5 buoy. It was basically the reverse of our retrieval. The buoy was tipped up 45 degrees and the top 35 meters of instruments were hooked together. Next the mooring was attached to the buoy and it was placed in the water with a crane. This phase was done off of the portside of the fantail. We held the wire that was attached to the buoy and let it swing out behind the ship. Then using a large winch we would play out more of the cable, stop, secure the line, and then attach the next instrument. Consider the fact that if we were to lose hold of the mooring we could lose the whole works into 4000 + meters of ocean water. It’s not like working on land where if you drop something, you say whoops and pick it up again. If that happens on the ship the thing you drop may well go over the side. Serious Whoops!
Once all of the instruments were attached we started paying out nylon and polypropylene line. This was accomplished by using an H-bit to run the line through. The line was in 4’ x 4’ x 4’ boxes and trailed out into the ocean as the ship moved forward at just over one knot. When we got to the end of the line it was time to attach the new acoustic releases so that this buoy can be recovered next year. Then it was time for the big splash. The mooring was attached to the anchor which was made up of three iron disks, twelve inches thick and three feet in diameter. The anchor’s weight is 9000 pounds. The anchor was sitting on a steel plate and the stern of the fantail. A crane picked up the forward edge of the plate and tipped the anchor into the ocean. The splash from the six-foot drop to the water went twenty feet in the air. The anchor started the trip to the bottom dragging all of the mooring and the buoy. The falling anchor pulled the buoy at about four knots towards the anchor location. Excited cheers went up on the fantail. The Stratus 5 buoy had been successfully deployed!
Instruments Deployed (top 450 meters)
Deployed on the mooring line beneath the buoy: MICRO CAT temperature, salinity SEA CAT temperature, salinity Brancker temperature, salinity VMCM direction, velocity of water flow NORTEK acoustic Doppler current profiler T-POD temperature logging device SONTEK acoustic Doppler current meter RDI ADCP acoustic Doppler current profiler (125 m) SDE 39 temperature logging device Acoustic release just above the anchor
On the buoy: (this information is transmitted 4 times a day) Atmospheric pressure, Air temperature, Wind speed and direction, Relative humidity, Precipitation, Long wave radiation, Short wave radiation, Sea surface temperature and salinity.
You may notice that many of the instruments on the mooring measure the same thing. This redundancy is intentional guaranteeing verifiable data. There are two complete meteorological systems on the buoy.
Response to Student Questions
Does the stratus layer extend to the land?
After questioning the senior scientists about this the answer is yes. We are at about 20 degrees south. Here there is a daily fluctuation in the cloud cover. It often dissipates during the afternoon as a result of warming by the sun. Apparently the coast of northern Chile often has a cloud layer that also dissipates during the day. This can be low-lying enough to be fog. As you travel a few miles inland and up in elevation you are no longer under the stratus layer.
Does the stratus layer affect El Nino?
Ocean and atmosphere constantly influence each other. I have to do more inquiry to give a solid answer to this question.
Note: There is some confusion about the labels being used for the buoy and the cruise. This is the sixth Stratus Project cruise which is deploying the fifth Stratus buoy. Hence, the Stratus 6 cruise is recovering the Straus 4 buoy and deploying the Stratus 5 buoy.
After Dr. Lundquist and I have a successful radiosonde launch we return to the computer terminal and watch the measurement data come in. My favorite display is a color-coded graph showing temperature, dew point, and relative humidity graphed against the altitude of the radiosonde. The main area of study is taking place where we are in the eastern Pacific off the coast of northern Chile. In this area there is a large, semi-permanent layer of stratus clouds. The effects these clouds have on the ocean temperature, and vice versa, is one of the reasons for choosing this area to study.
As the balloon ascends from the ship the temperature cools at the dry adiabatic rate. The dew point goes down but not as rapidly. Usually at an elevation of about 600 meters the dew point and temperature intersect. On the same screen green line showing relative humidity hits 100% as we would expect. This marks the base of the cloud layer.
As the radiosonde ascends another 200 to 400 meters the temperature shoots way up, as much as 8 degrees C. This indicates the top on the cloud layer where the sun is shining brightly. As the balloon continues to ascend the temperature once again cools consistently at the dry adiabatic rate. It’s about negative forty degrees C at an altitude of 20 kilometers. In this part of the atmosphere the relative humidity approaches zero and the dew point stays well below the air temperature. This suggests the upper air is descending and is stable. The bottom 800 meters is referred to as a marine boundary layer.
Despite the constant cloud cover there is very little precipitation in this area. Temperatures at the ocean level are surprisingly cool as evidenced my most of the crew wearing long pants and jackets or sweatshirts. Atmospheric and oceanic data in this area are very sparse. One goal of the Stratus Project is to gather more information so we can better understand the interrelationships between ocean and atmosphere.
As I write this I am on my watch in the main science lab. I’m preparing to launch a Drifter in about 15 minutes and I will launch a weather balloon at 13:00. It’s really fun to throw things into the ocean and release balloons into the atmosphere and see where they go.
Our ETA at the Stratus mooring site is 17:30. We are approaching the end of southerly leg of our cruise. There are about six days of work scheduled at the buoy site. It should be interesting.
I’ve been working with the meteorological team from NOAA in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve been teamed with Dr. Jessica Lundquist to manage the 13:00 weather balloon launch. Balloons are launched four times a day at intervals of six hours. A balloon carries an instrument called a radiosonde to a height often exceeding 20 kilometers. Eventually the balloon ruptures and the instrument and spent balloon fall to earth.
When preparing a radiosonde we take the battery pack and add water to activate it. As the battery is soaking, the sonde is attached to the computer interface/radio receiver, and it is activated and calibrated. It is necessary to have real-time weather measurements to input into the sonde so it has a comparison to ensure accuracy. A radio transmitting frequency is selected then the sonde is detached from the interface and attached to the battery. While it is still in the lab, we make sure that data is being transmitted. If all of this goes correctly the radiosonde is set to launch.
We take the activated radiosonde out to the staging bay, which looks a bit like a garage. There are two overhead doors, a workbench, and bottles of helium. We inflate the balloon with helium to a diameter of about five feet. When it is inflated we close the balloon with a zip-tie, then attach the radiosonde by its hook, and close it with another zip-tie. We call the Bridge and let them know we are about to launch a balloon.
Now comes the tricky part, walking out on the fantail of the rolling ship carrying a large balloon in one hand and the radiosonde in the other. Today there 16-knot winds coming from the SE and a wind generated by the ship’s speed of an additional 10 knots from due south. To complicate matters further, the superstructure of the ship blocks the wind and creates erratic eddies. We check the wind direction and decide on which corner of the fantail will give us the cleanest launch. Walking aft, the balloon is buffeted by the wind. It pulls and pushes you in various directions while you try to maintain balance on the heaving deck. When you reach the railing, you hold your hands out and release the balloon and radiosonde. If it clears the A frame and the other equipment you stand and watch your balloon ascend until it enters the cloud layer and disappears. We call the Bridge and let them know the balloon is away.
Now we return to the Lab to check that our sonde is sending out data. Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure are taken and sent back every two seconds. The GPS tracking device allows us to know wind speed, wind direction, altitude, and location of the radiosonde. The measurements of temperature and relative humidity allow the computer to calculate the dew point. Data streams in until the balloon reaches an elevation where the atmospheric pressure of about 30, the balloon fails and the radiosonde falls to earth. Tomorrow: More about radiosonde information.
Questions to Consider
-What is an eddy?
-What will happen to the volume of the balloon as it rises in the atmosphere?
-Why does atmospheric pressure decrease as elevation increases?
-What is the relative humidity when dew point and air temperature are the same?
-What is the adiabatic rate?
-What is a temperature inversion?
I am a Pollywog. Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those slimy little creatures with a spherical body and a tail. At least that’s what the Shellbacks tell us. A pollywog is a person who has never sailed across the equator and gone through the ceremony and initiation to move onward. Shellbacks are people who have been through these rites. I made the mistake of admitting that I don’t know what a Shellback is. I fear that admission will come back to haunt me. Initiation is approaching. I don’t know what I’ll have to do. I’ll keep you posted.
Today I worked my first watch from 08:00 to 12:00. I was responsible for being present in the main science lab and monitoring our position and being aware of where the first deployment of instruments will occur. Since we are not yet allowed to deploy any instruments, it was a fairly slow day. We did receive training from Sergio Pezoa on how to calibrate and activate radiosondes. These are the instrument packages that send back information on its position, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity. These instrument packages carry a water-activated battery and are attached to a helium balloon. They are released into the atmosphere at prescribed times and send back by radio the information they gather to the receiving unit. This continues until the balloon fails and the instrument package tumbles to earth. Radiosondes are the basis for most of the information about conditions in the upper troposphere. I’ll be working on the team that launches the weather balloons carrying these instrument packages.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005
Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas Geographical Area: Chilean Coast Date: December 6, 2004
Location: Latitude 19° 50.49` S, Longitude 73° 22.51`W Time: 8:30 am
Weather Data from the Bridge Wind Direction (degrees) 144.45
Relative Humidity (percent) 68.72
Temperature (Celsius) 18.65
Barometric Pressure (Millibars) 1012.77
Wind Speed (knots) 11.36
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 5.51
Question of Day
Based on the name, what do you think a thermosalinograph measures?
Good morning, everyone! Wow! What a great way to get a good night’s sleep, in a gently rocking ship. It’s like sleeping on a waterbed. The morning shower was a challenge, though. Being wet and soapy even on a gently rocking ship could be very dangerous. After breakfast, we met with Dan Wolfe and Chris Fairall for radiosonde deployment training. A radiosonde is a really cool giant helium filled balloon with instruments attached to a cord dangling beneath it. The radiosonde must be assembled and calibrated before launching. As the instruments detect the relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and temperature readings they transmit these data back to the computer onboard the ship. A radiosonde lasts for about one and a half hours and goes about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) high. Dan actually deployed a radiosonde and we watched it go up, up and away! Then we went back into the lab and observed the data coming into the computer. I can’t wait until it is mine turn to deploy a radiosonde!
Our next training session was led by Jeff Lord and he showed us how to deploy the drifter buoys and the Argo floats. These are fairly simple to get into the water. Just record their identification numbers, fill in the log sheet for time, date, GMT, latitude and longitude, then toss them overboard. The drifting buoys are small and they measure surface temperature and pressure. The drifters have a long caterpillar-shaped drogue extending far down into the water that ensures the buoy will drift with the ocean currents and not the wind. In a few days we will deploy the first of fifteen drifter buoys and my students at Southside School will adopt this one and keep track of it online. I am amazed at the designs of all these instruments. It’s almost unbelievable what ingenuity has gone into these designs. Some are high-tech and some are low-tech but they all work together to obtain the necessary data for the scientists.
The Argo floats sink down to 2000 meters then float to the surface. On their way up they measure temperature and salinity. When the float reaches the surface, it then sends the information to a satellite. The float has a bladder that deflates and it sinks again to repeat the process. The Argo floats can keep on going for two to four years depending on their battery life.
After our training sessions, Diane and I sat down with Bruce Cowden, the ship’s boatswain, who’s also an artist, to brainstorm for a children’s book about the science work of this cruise.
At 1415, we had our “surprise” safety drills: a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. The fire drill was pretty simple. Upon hearing the alarm, we reported to our muster stations. Then the chief scientist called the bridge and said that all persons were present.
The abandon ship drill was quite another story. When we heard the alarm, we had to go to our staterooms to get our life vests and emergency bag containing the big red “gumby suit”. Then we went to our lifeboat station and put on the suit. Its purpose is to keep you dry and afloat in the event you were forced to abandon the ship.
Diane and I are taking water surface temperature readings every thirty minutes. This is really kind of fun. There’s a thermometer in a tube-shaped “bucket”. The bucket is attached to a long cord. We then swing it over the edge of the ship into the water until the bucket fills up. We raise the bucket and read the temperature immediately. This is compared to the temperature reading on an instrument mounted underneath the ship called a thermosalinograph.
Later this afternoon, we finally arrived at the deployment site for the Chilean Armada tsunami buoy. We are about 200 miles off the coast of Chile. The ship hovered over the location while the buoy was hoisted by a crane then swung over the edge and lowered into the water. At this time the men are unrolling over 5000 meters of cable to attach to the anchors which happen to old railroad wheels. It will take about one hour for the anchors to sink to the bottom of the ocean. The bottom pressure recorder will then be lowered. It detects the slightest changes in pressure as small as two centimeters and sends messages back to the surface buoy which then relays that to a satellite which has direct ground communications. The ship will stay in this position for a few hours to make sure the tsunami buoy and ground pressure recorder are communicating with each other. A RHIB ride is in the near future!
And I hope I’m on it. RHIB stands for rigid hull inflatable boat and they go really fast! Some of the workers will be riding out to the tsumani buoy to check everything out before we leave it.
I’ve just found out that I will have morning watch each day from 0800 until 1200. Everyone on board is assigned a daily four hour watch duty. My duty will be in the main lab and I will stay in contact with the bridge and help out when needed.
So tune tomorrow for more on our exciting adventure!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
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
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?
We are still underway, about 800 miles off the coast of Peru. We will arrive at the Woods Hole Stratus Buoy tomorrow at about noon. We will be taking out a small boat ( zodiac or the RHIB) to look it over before we try to bring it in. It is heavily instrumented and will be covered in many animals. They will have to be cleaned off and I will enjoy preserving and identifying some of them. I found a copy of my old invertebrate zoology book onboard so this should be worth several hours of entertainment for me. Dr. Weller’s group will be removing the instruments in preparation for taking the buoy out of the water and loading it onboard. Then we will spend another day deploying the new Stratus Buoy. The old one will be shipped back to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for Arica, Chile.
Most of the day we were deploying sea surface drifters and several radiosondes for the ETL group. Tomorrow Jason Tomlinson, from Texas A&M will be taking some aerosol samples for his research. I will be interviewing the Chief Engineer, Paul Maurice and touring the engine room of the REVELLE. Radiosondes are used to collect data on atmospheric temperature, humidity, pressure and uses onboard GPS for wind direction and windspeed from the surface up to the lowest part of the Stratusphere. I have put up some pictures of the radiosondes. My e-mails and internet access are being made possible by the ROADnet system that is installed here on the R/V REVELLE. We have “live” cameras off the fantail of the boat and in the main lab as well as telphone and internet capabilities due to ROADnet. The Visualization Center at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, located at the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics ( IGPP),houses the state of the art system that allows scientists to take enormous data sets, such as earthquake activity east of San Diego, the morphology of the global seafloor, or the topography of Mars and illustrate them on a large screen in 3 dimensions. One new project taking advantage of the Visualization’s data management capabilities is termed ROADnet ( Real time Observatories, Applications, and Data Management Network). ROADnet sensors, located throughout the world and on Scripp’s largest ship, the Roger Revelle, deliver real-time data to the center for nearly instantaneous review by scientists on campus. I will be using ROADnet to do a broadcast to a geography class next week at San Marcos HIgh School in San Marcos, California. The class of teacher Larry Osen will be able to see me and the scientists on the Revelle as we deploy a CTD as it is happening and ask questions of the scientists. This system is presently being installed on Scripps other large ship the R/V MELVILLE. This is an exciting example of how technological innovations help advance scientific understanding of the oceans.
I’m a little disoriented on my times as I am doing the 12am to 4am watch. I get up a little later that I normally would, about 10:30am. Tomorrow we will come up on the buoy so I need to be up earlier enough to participate. We will be filming and doing interviews during the recovery. Besides if I get up earlier enough they might let me go out in the zodiac! I will ride on any boat that floats, so this is too good an opportunity to miss. Since the buoy has been out at sea for a year it will be covered in animals and surrounded by fish. Anything that floats in the open ocean becomes a little miniature ecosystem, So there will be some fishing and lots to see. We will also being doing our first CTD cast tomorrow and I will have some pictures and descriptions of what a CTD is and why we are deploying it ( actually some of us are deploying it just to shrink our decorated styrofoam cups!) I will be explaining that tomorrow too. What oceanographers do for entertainment on long voyages. So tune in tomorrow for some fun at sea!