Eric Heltzel, October 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Heltzel
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.

Eric Heltzel, October 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Heltzel
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 25 – October 22, 2005

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 9, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

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.

Personal log

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.

Eric Heltzel, October 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Heltzel
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 25 – October 22, 2005

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 8, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

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?

Personal log

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.

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 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?

Jane Temoshok, October 14, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jane Temoshok
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 2 – 24, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: October 14, 2001

Latitude: 15º S
Longitude: 89º W
Air Temp: 19.2.0º C
Sea Temp: 19.3º C
Sea Wave: 2 – 4 ft.
Swell Wave: 4 – 5 ft.
Visibility: 8 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science Log

Wes Atkins & Robert Schaaf- Weather Balloons, University of Washington

Wes and Robert study the atmosphere. To do this they send up a big helium balloon that has a small box dangling from a string. In the box has an antenna that can communicate with up to 8 satellites, and several sensors that measure things like temperature, pressure, and moisture. The fancy name for this balloon and sensor package is called a radiosonde. The information that comes back to their computers is called an upper-air sounding. The data is graphed to show what’s going on in that atmosphere, on that day, in that location. Wes and Robert are part of a team that launches balloons every 3 hours! The idea is that the more data they collect the more accurate their “profile” or picture of the atmosphere will be. Also, they look for changes in the atmosphere as the ship moves along its track.

Another thing Wes and Robert are also interested in the sizes of raindrops. Have you ever been out in a light, misty rain? Compare that feeling to the big fat raindrops during a thunderstorm. What makes some rain drops tiny and some raindrops really big? For this experiment they use a special paper soaked in a chemical called “meth blue”. They put this out for a short period of time in a plastic tub. When the rain falls on the blue paper it leaves a mark which can be measured using a special tool – like a round ruler. They examine the sizes of the drops to learn about the clouds from which they came.

Travel Log

As you can tell from the data above, the sea is remaining pretty calm. The weather changes constantly from windy and gray to bright and clear. Every half hour is different. Today I saw a beautiful rainbow off in the distance.J (No pot of gold though.L) Still haven’t seen any other ships out here. We are very much alone at sea. This suits some people on board just fine. The crew (meaning the people who work on the boat all year long) really enjoy the solitude. They generally get news via email and whenever the ship puts into port, which can be anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. That’s a long time to go without hearing from your loved ones! There is a phone on board, but it costs $10 for just 3 minutes! There isn’t any TV on board but they do show 2 videos every night on a big screen in the lounge. There is a store on the ship where you can buy popcorn and candybars for the movie. Dinner is served really early (by my clock anyway) at 4:30! The kitchen closes by 5:30 so you better get your food by then or your on your own. The food is excellent, with a printed menu each day. I think the hardest working people onboard are the cooks! Can you imagine serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 50 people everyday? And they give us lots of choices too. Tonight we could choose from a complete turkey dinner (just like on Thanksgiving), Italian spaghetti with sausages, or salmon loaf.

Question of the day: How do updrafts affect the size of a raindrop? Do you think the size changes? If so, which way?

Keep in touch,
Jane

Jennifer Richards, September 8, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 8, 2001

Latitude: 19º 57.1N
Longitude: 108º 21.4W
Temperature: 30.0ºC
Seas: Sea wave height: 2-3 feet
Swell wave height: 3-4 feet
Visibility: 10-12 miles
Cloud cover: 4/8
Water Temp: 29.4ºC

Science Log

Today I met with the radar scientists from Colorado State University (Ft. Collins, Colorado). These guys are meteorologists who are studying the internal structure of storms over tropical oceans. As radar scientists, they rely primarily on radar systems for obtaining data. They are using pretty sophisticated equipment and software for their research, and have been spending the last several days just getting everything set up.

Although all four members of this group – Dr. Rob Cifelli, Dr. Walt Peterson, Mr. Bob Bowie and Dr. Dennis Boccippio – are very nice guys with a great sense of humor, from my perspective, they are somewhat the villains on the ship. These guys are hoping we will encounter storms- lots of them- the bigger, the better. Have any of you seen the movie “The Perfect Storm?”

Here’s some background information that will help you understand the research this group is working on. Storms on land and storms on the ocean tend to be about the same size vertically, but the way they function internally is quite different. On land, storms can be generated over pretty short periods of time, and can run themselves out pretty quickly. A lot of people in the mid-west are familiar with the daily rain storms that hit during summer afternoons- suddenly coming out of nowhere, and then disappearing as fast as they arrived. This is because land is full of heat pockets. You could have rivers, farms, asphalt and concrete highways, homes, and forests, and they all heat and cool at different rates. The differences in the rate of heating cause pressure gradients, which can lead to volatile weather conditions.

The ocean does not contain heat pockets the way the land does, and therefore, the air above the ocean heats more slowly. Pressure gradients in the air above the ocean are not as steep, so when storms are generated over the ocean, they grow slowly over long periods of time, and can become quite large. Do you remember hearing in the news about hurricanes? The weathermen will track hurricanes for many days to see where it is moving and how large it is getting. This is an example of an ocean storm growing slowly to a very large size.

If we can understand how storms form and behave in a certain area, it will help us understand the climate in that area. If you want to learn about the climate of San Diego, California, for example, it’s not very hard. You can visit the library and find all sorts of documents about the climate and typical weather conditions. There have been weather stations in San Diego for at least a hundred years, and there is plenty of data that has been collected. There aren’t too many surprises.

But what do we really know about climate over the oceans? Not a whole lot. Storms heat the atmosphere and affect the climate. NASA and NASDA (the Japanese Space Agency) have a satellite called TRMM (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission) provides data about storms from very far away, but we don’t have oceans full of weather stations to show us exactly what’s going on at the surface and in the troposphere. Plus, TRMM can only measure what it sees from the sky- the tops of storms. You have to be on the ocean to see the rest of the storm. And since the satellite passes over each location on earth only twice a day, the data can be up to 12 hours old. When’s the last time you heard of a storm that hadn’t changed in 12 hours?

How do the atmosphere and the ocean interact? How are storms in the tropics different from storms in the mid-latitude regions? What impact does the tropical ocean water have on the air above it? What impact does it have on storms that form over it? That’s where this group from Colorado State University comes into the picture. The R/V RONALD H. BROWN is equipped with a Doppler Radar system that uses microwaves to echo off of condensed water, ice crystals, and hail. It can create 3D profiles of storms within 150 km of the ship. A satellite can only see the top of the storm, but the radar system on the ship can see the internal structure of it. And if we happen to be in the middle of a big storm, the radar can see everything going on around us for the duration of the storm (not just once every 12 hours, like the TRMM satellite). Unfortunately, hurricane Henrietta was too far away to effectively measure with the radar. These guys will also be launching weather balloons from the ship to gather additional atmospheric data in the sky above us.

What can the world hope to learn from the research being done by this group? Well, if we have a better understanding of how storms are behaving in the tropics, we will have a better understanding of the factors affecting ocean climate. Since events such as El Niño originate in the tropical area of the Pacific Ocean, this research may help us better understand what causes seasonal climate changes and El Niño and provide better forecasting of such events.

Travel Log: The air temperature is getting much warmer each day, and you can definitely tell we’re in the tropics. One of my students, Kalen, asked if I had seen any wildlife? Excellent question. I forgot to mention earlier that I saw a bunch of flying fish! They were really cool- almost looked like birds jumping out of the ocean, flying 10 or 20 feet, then diving back in. You could see them just about any time you looked for them during the last couple days. We also passed a huge school of at least a hundred porpoises, about a mile away. I’m hoping we’ll see some more a little closer so I can get some pictures for you.

Have you ever heard of sailors seeing a green flash at sunset? Captain Dreves announced last night that the conditions were good to see it, so I ran out on deck. After staring at the horizon a couple minutes I saw what looked like neon green flashes of lightening, only for a second. I waited and waited and finally the sun dipped below the horizon, but I’m not sure if I saw it. I’m not sure if what I saw was THE green flash, or if my eyes were getting strained from staring at the sunset too long. I told Captain Dreves “well, I guess I have 3 and a half more weeks to see it again” and he said “I was at sea 30 years before I saw my first one.” Oh, well.

Question of the day: What causes the green flash that sailors sometimes see at sunset?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show some of the equipment that the group from the Colorado State University are using for their research. Dr. Rob Cifelli and Dr. Walt Peterson are working on the computer to establish the radar settings they will be using to collect data. Bob Bowie is standing at the radar station that controls the Doppler Radar unit on the ship. Dr. Dennis Boccippio inflates a weather balloon, which you see aloft in a separate picture. Finally, all four members of the CSU team pause for a picture.

Keep in touch,
Jennifer