NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 27, 2016

May 27th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

When people hear I am heading to sea for a month I am regularly asked: “What is the food like?” Often this is accompanied by a pained expression, as if the questioner is concerned I will waste away being fed like Harry Potter when he is home for the summer holidays. There is no cause for concern – the food is always good. On the Woods Hole ships the food quality has moved beyond good and is now “so good it’s bad”. I am a serial offender when it comes to overeating. A good example was today at lunch. I queued up (this totally satisfies my British nature!) and observed the options:

Black and red bean with roast carrots and beets soup
Turkey meatball and cheese sub
Smoked salmon and avocado sandwich
Roast cauliflower/broccoli and cheese quiche
Manicotti
Hummus and pitas

Meatball sub and Manicotti from today's lunch menu.

Meatball sub and Manicotti from today’s lunch menu.

In my head I tried to limit my intake. “OK, I’ll just have the salmon sandwich and some quiche.” This was before I arrived and actually saw the wonders on offer. Suddenly my brain wants me to try everything and I’m confused by what to choose. About 50 hungry scientists and crew are patiently waiting for me to make a decision. Panic sets in and I end up with a plateful of everything I intended plus the Manicotti. It tastes gooood though. Failure has never been so wonderful.

With limited self-control over my eating, exercise is the only weapon with which to fight back against weight gain. Some people walk all around the ship, up and down the many stairs. Some use exercise videos and weights. Crewmen Ronnie and Neumann do Muay Thai, an impressive if somewhat terrifying kickboxing spectacle. I just try to use the running machine. Running while the ship moves around is best described as like running on a very poorly-maintained and undulating track…….but with your eyes closed. You get minimal warning that the lovely descent you began a few seconds ago is about to turn into a challenging ascent. The treadmill is not your friend – it is oblivious to the ship’s rolls and keeps you running at the same speed irrespective of the pain inflicted. This machine has an ‘incline’ setting, I assume purely to help define the term ‘irony’.

The dreaded treadmill in the science hold.

The dreaded treadmill in the science hold.

As you may have gathered, by this point in the cruise we have settled into our routines in sleep, food, exercise and science. Everyone has already collected a good amount of data and/or samples. Our group is looking at DMS, a sulfur gas produced by the biological community in the ocean that plays an important role in atmospheric particle formation. Our group’s custom-built mass spectrometers have been working well, analyzing water and air samples. They’ve been running with minimal issues (unlike last time out!), which has allowed us to look at the data and tweak the setup to ensure optimum results. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing that we should have done things differently! The weather forecasts for the next few days suggest we will catch a big storm so we are excited to observe a large transfer of DMS into the atmosphere – fingers crossed!

Bow mast which is used to mount the 3-D sonic anemometer, accelerometer, and gas inlet leading to the mass spectrometer. Photo: Thomas Bell

Bow mast which is used to mount the 3-D sonic anemometer, accelerometer, and gas inlet leading to the mass spectrometer. Photo: Thomas Bell

Written by Thomas Bell

A Satellite Scientist Visits the Ice, Alaska 2016: Beachfront Resort

May 27th, 2016 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Walt Meier

the house

I have arrived in Barrow, Alaska. It was an interesting flight up from Anchorage: the plane had seats only in the back half of the plane because the front half is used for cargo. That is because there are no roads into Barrow, so supplies need to be brought in by plane or, during the short summers, by barge. After a stopover in Prudhoe Bay, we arrived to gloomy skies, which are quite typical for this time of year. Temperatures are right around freezing. We are staying at the NARL, which originally was the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory. Various research groups and other activities –even a college– now share this facility.

The accommodations are spare, but comfortable. Most people are staying in Quonset huts (prefabricated huts made of galvanized steel), but I’m with four others in “The House”, which is more like, well, a house. We have a living room, kitchen, full bath, and four bedrooms. Because we have a kitchen, we are the base for meals where the whole group meets up to eat breakfast and lunch. Last night we all gathered for a light meal after arriving and, with 24 people, it got pretty crowded. But it was nice to catch up with old friends and meet new colleagues. Already the collaborations have begun as we informally discussed each other’s research.

The whole campus is on a narrow spit of land north of town sticking out into the Beaufort Sea. I can see the sea ice from the house. So you might say we’re staying at a beachfront resort! With the ice right out the window, it was tempting to take a walk out there last night. However, we were told to not go out on the ice until we get a safety orientation. The ice off the coast is landfast ice – ice that is attached to the coast, so it doesn’t drift with the winds. However, it can still shift with the tides, as evidenced by piles of ice ridged formed as ice got pushed together. So one doesn’t want to just run out on the ice without being familiar with the hazards. Oh, and there are also potentially polar bears roaming around – another very good reason not to go roaming off by oneself.

Our view of sea ice from The House.

Our view of sea ice from The House.

Now we’re heading off to our orientation session and introductory discussions where we’ll start learning about modeling, satellite data, and field observations. This afternoon we’ll take our first trip out onto the ice. When the week is over, each of us will have broadened our expertise beyond each of our core research areas and hopefully we may find new areas of research to collaborate on and advance our understanding of sea ice.

A Satellite Scientist Visits the Ice, Alaska 2016: A Satellite Scientist Visits the Ice

May 26th, 2016 by Maria-Jose Viñas

By Walt Meier

Walt Meier

Whenever I tell people that I’m a polar scientist or that I study sea ice, inevitably one of the first questions I’m asked is, “so, have you been to the ice?” I’ve always had to answer no. I’m a remote sensing scientist who works with satellite data. Other than a few aircraft flights over the ice several years ago, I’ve spent my career in front of a computer analyzing satellite images. When I’ve needed field data, e.g., to validate satellite measurements, I could always obtain it from colleagues. So there has never been any need for me to go out on the ice. And to be honest, spending days or weeks in the field, as many researchers do, does not have particular appeal to me – I like the comforts of my heated office! Nonetheless, I’ve always wanted to get out at least once in my career and see the ice close up, feel it crunching under my feet, hear it creak and groan as it strains under the winds and currents.

An image of sea ice in northwest Greenland, capture by NASA's Operation IceBridge.

An image of sea ice in northwest Greenland, captured by NASA’s Operation IceBridge.

Now I am getting that chance, thanks to a National Science Foundation funded Summer Sea Ice Camp workshop. I and a couple dozen fellow scientists are heading to Barrow, Alaska – the northernmost point in the United States at 71 degrees N latitude – to partake in a unique project. The goal of this project isn’t specifically to collect data (though I hope that some of the data we collect will be useful), but rather to foster communication between remote sensing scientists like myself, sea ice modelers, and field researchers.

While there is a lot of collaboration in the sea ice community in terms of sharing data and results, scientists tend be silo-ed within their own area of expertise when it comes their actual work. Modelers focus on model development, validation, and results. Remote sensing folks like myself analyze satellite data. And field researchers collect and analyze in situ observations. Partly this is simply due to time – just focusing on one area keeps one plenty busy. But it is also partly due to a lack of communication. For example, I know a bit about modeling, but I don’t really understand the details of how a sea ice model is put together, how it can and should be used. Similarly, while modelers often use remote sensing data to compare with their model results, they don’t often understand the capabilities and limitations of satellite data. This can lead to under use or misuse of the data. And neither modelers nor remote sensing scientists may have much understanding of how to best take advantage of in situ data.

The goal of this workshop is to bring the three groups together for a week to talk and work with each other to better understand each of the three specialty areas and how perhaps the three groups can better work with each other to advance our understanding of sea ice. So now I’m on my way to Barrow, Alaska, looking forward to helping others understand satellite data, as well as running sea ice models and feeling that crunch of ice and snow under my feet as I collect data from on top of the Arctic Ocean. More in my next blog post from Barrow!

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 26, 2016

May 26th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

The Dark Side of Optics at Sea & The Development of Boat Brain

The old adage of Murphy ’s Law states that: ‘If there is the opportunity for something to go wrong then it will inevitably happen’

Well for all Oceanographic engineers it’s obvious that Murphy spent a considerable amount of time trying to get instruments to work at sea. It seems that sometime during the transition from dryland happy bench testing, to onboard rocking and rolling ocean ops there is an attitude shift in either or both the equipment or the operator.

Inherent Optical Properties-IOP frame and suspicious operators. Photo: Stuart Halewood

Inherent Optical Properties-IOP frame and suspicious operators. Photo: Stuart Halewood

Whether it is swapping connections on obviously labelled instrument plugs, to forgetting to actually switch units ‘on’ before sending them into the abyss. To the random erratic behavior of previously rock solid sensors. Murphy pops up in the strangest of places to answer the frustrated cries of ‘but why?’ from the research engineer or scientist.

For the equipment this could be forgiven as now it’s in a new and pretty hostile environment, varying temperatures, high pressure of the ocean depths and someone throws it off the back of a rapidly moving platform without so much as please or thank you.

For the operator the same issues apply except, hopefully not the ocean depth and being thrown into the sea bit! That and the development of what we jokingly call ‘Boat Brain’. The seeming loss of your ability to do the things you’ve done a thousand times before just because you are now surrounded by moving salty water.

The challenge for us is to listen to the instruments, check everything, check it again and then get someone else to check! Take your time and be safe. Rules to follow in every aspect of being at sea.

James Allen checking the Optical Tubes on the IOP frame. Photo: Stuart Halewood

James Allen checking the Optical Tubes on the IOP frame. Photo: Stuart Halewood

While there is a dark side to us taking measurements at sea with somewhat delicate instruments on a research vessel, there is also literally a dark side to our optical measurements. Contrary to logical sense, we actually deploy one of our optical instrument packages at 10:30 at night! The IOP Package is a specially designed instrument package that uses its own light, in the form of bright LEDs or lasers, to make measurements and record both optical and physical oceanographic data.

We lovingly call it the optical disco ball, because we see many colors of the flashing lights before it gets sent to the depths of oblivion. With the information from this cast, we can check how optical constituents change from daytime to nighttime, when critters migrate great vertical distances to feed.

Night Time deployment of the IOP frame. Photo: Nicholas Huynh

Night Time deployment of the IOP frame. Photo: Nicholas Huynh

As for what these creatures think of our brightly colored USO (Unidentified Sinking Object) in their midst, we are uncertain but we hope they appreciate the light show.

Written by Stuart Halewood

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 25, 2016

May 26th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

The Light Side of Optics

Have you ever stopped to think about the color of the ocean? I mean, really stopped to think about why the ocean looks the way it does? If you’ve been to a variety of beaches, you’ve probably noticed that some waters are crystal blue, while others are emerald green, and still others can be yellowish-brown to even red! What causes these colors, and what can they tell us about the ocean?

A few of the varying colors of the sea. Photo: Kelsey McBeain and Stuart Halewood

A few of the varying colors of the sea. Photo: Kelsey McBeain and Stuart Halewood

And so begins our dive into the realm of Optical Oceanography. The role of the UCSB Optics team in this cruise involves deploying multiple instruments overboard, filtering many, many liters of water, and attempting to match all the different pieces of the puzzle to get a picture of why light behaves the way it does in the ocean.

As you might expect, many different things contribute to ocean color, but we can group them into five basic categories:

• Water – obviously the most abundant contributor, it actually slightly changes color based on temperature and salinity!
• Phytoplankton – the plants of the sea! As diverse as they are abundant, they influence ocean color based on their size and the amount and type of pigments such as chlorophyll.
• Non-Algal Particles – all other particles in the ocean. This includes dirt, sand, and the clumps of organic material that sink to depth and make marine snow.
• Colored Dissolved Organic Material – the fraction of dissolved organics that interact with light. I like to think of this as brewed tea, but so watered down that it has a light yellow color. It can also be called gelbstof, German for “yellow stuff”.
• Bubbles – formed from breaking waves, photosynthesis, and respiration, they are highly reflective and change the light field both above and below them. For this reason, they are very annoying when they get into our instruments when we’re trying to measure everything else!

Lots of research has been done to characterize all the different ways these 5 constituents absorb and reflect all the different colors of light, and then some! With this information, we can look at how light availability changes with depth and piece together the puzzle to find the amount of each thing at different depths.

The IOP Package, the HyperPro + angry birds, and the C-OPS. Photo: James Allen and Nicole Estephan

The IOP Package, the HyperPro + angry birds, and the C-OPS. Photo: James Allen and Nicole Estephan

Over the course of a station (depending on weather), we deploy three different packages. The first, the IOP Package, is a big box of multiple instruments each firing their own combo of bright lights and lasers. The HyperPro is a floating instrument that takes reading of light levels just above and below the surface of the ocean (when it isn’t being pecked at by birds). The third, and my favorite, is the Compact Optical Profiling Spectrometer, or C-OPS. Stuart Halewood and I deploy it midday at high noon so that we can match time/data with some ocean color satellites passing overhead (hopefully it isn’t cloudy!). C-OPS has two clusters of sensors on it. One looks down at the spectrum of the light bouncing back up at it from below, and the other looks up and measures light coming down. It measures many different wavelengths as it sinks and sends this data back to us in real time. Since we just want to measure light straight up and down, we don’t want any tilt as it sinks, which is sometimes pretty difficult with all these subsurface currents pushing it around. After we pull C-OPS up, we’ll go look at the profile and measure how fast each color of light seems to “disappear” with depth. By modeling these changes, we’ll be able to get a high-res map of many different constituents at once.

Yes, we hand-deploy a few of our instruments, even in rough weather. Photo: Nicole Estephan

Yes, we hand-deploy a few of our instruments, even in rough weather. Photo: Nicole Estephan

Our ultimate goal is to reconcile all the changes in light behavior due to everything in the water column. With this data, satellites measuring ocean color from orbit will be better equipped to tell us how the ocean is changing on many different scales of time and space! Talk about seeing the ocean in a new light!

Written by James Allen

Notes from the Field