NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 19, 2016

May 20th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

I’m part of the Russell research group, along with my colleagues Raghu Betha, Chia-li (Candice) Chen, and Maryam Lamjiri, from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Our group focuses on aerosols, which are microscopic liquids and solids suspended in the air. Aerosols may be formed over the ocean when wave generated bubbles burst and eject particles into the atmosphere. Aerosols are important to climate as they act as seeds for cloud droplets. The ability of water to collect on aerosols is determined by their size and chemical composition. We have several instruments housed in our sampling van that we use to determine these properties. The aerosols are sampled through an inlet that reaches 50 ft above the ocean surface.

A view of the interior of the Russell group aerosol sampling van.

A view of the interior of the Russell group aerosol sampling van. Photo: Derek Price

The aerosol sampling vans (affectionately known as the “aerosol trailer park”).  From left to right, the PMEL van, the Scripps van, The UCI van.  The inlet reaches 50 ft above the ocean surface.

The aerosol sampling vans (affectionately known as the “aerosol trailer park”). From left to right, the PMEL van, the Scripps van, The UCI van. The inlet reaches 50 ft above the ocean surface. Photo: Derek Price

As our instruments sample aerosols continuously, we are able to sample beyond the designated stations of the project. We began measuring aerosols while at the Woods Hole dock, we have been measuring aerosols since we left port, and we will continue to measure aerosols until we return to port. To make sure everything is running smoothly, our group members take shifts to monitor the instruments.

An exciting aspect of this project is the collaboration with the NASA Langley Aerosol Research Group (LARGE) which provides the C-130 Hercules aircraft. The C-130 contains some of the same aerosol instruments that are in our sampling van. This allows us to compare our ship-based aerosol measurements with the C-130 aircraft measurements. We can also compare our aerosol measurements with the other aerosol groups onboard from PMEL, UC-Irvine, and Texas A&M.

The NASA LARGE C-130H Hercules aircraft as it flew by the R/V Atlantis on 5/19/16.  Photo: Derek Price

The NASA LARGE C-130H Hercules aircraft as it flew by the R/V Atlantis on 5/19/16. Photo: Derek Price

Today there was a flyby of the NASA C-130 aircraft, which is always an exciting moment for us on the ship. Over a dozen scientists and crew gathered on the O3 deck to capture footage of the Hercules. The conditions were foggy this afternoon when the aircraft was scheduled to arrive. The C-130 was already upon us by the time we saw it. They circled the ship twice before disappearing into the mist.

We are now en route to station 2. Hopefully tonight the fog will clear and we can catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis!

Written by Derek Price

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 18, 2016

May 19th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

With day one of Station One complete, an opportunity is provided to reflect on the stations events so far. I woke up at to start the day at 11 o’clock, quickly helping myself to a cup of the ships endless pot of coffee and a hefty bowl of cereal. If this sounds like a very lazy Saturday morning to you, I’ll add that this is in fact 11pm, with the sun not due to rise for another five hours at our northern latitude. After deploying a series of drifters and vertical profiling floats to autonomously observe the water long after we have left the station, we started our first sampling of the day promptly at half past midnight. But we don’t start our work so early simply because we are excited about collecting our samples. It turns out that light can be the enemy of scientists wanting to study the world’s tiniest photosynthetic organisms. When the sun pops over the horizon, the light used in photosynthesis alters properties of the phytoplankton that we want to measure in a dark-adapted state. As a result, when the late spring offers abundant light and long days, we have to take advantage of every hour of darkness provided.

While the ship is busy with scientists running around in the wee hours of the morning, the ocean can still feel like a lonely place. Step out onto the deck to sample from the rosette, manage incubations, or run up to the aerosol vans to check an instrument, and the fog that lightly grips the darkness provides a sense of immense solitude. However, the light of the morning brings contrast to this feeling, as life abounds all around us, only camouflaged by the stillness if the night. Stowaway songbirds start singing in a small portside hangar. Local fulmars begin to gather near the A-frame at the rear of the ship, hoping for an easy meal to be dumped overboard. Even a pod of pilot whales is spotted in the distance, with rumor that this may be the same pod we observed here last November. Suddenly, the seas do not seem so lonely after all. And to top it off, today was the first fly-by from the C-130 airplane, which collected data on atmospheric gasses, aerosols, and ocean color to complement our shipboard sampling for the NAAMES study objectives. To see another ship on the horizon or planes traveling at 30,000 ft is generally the closest we come to others not on the Atlantis, so to receive a low altitude fly-by from our fellow scientists elevates the spirit, knowing we are important to them and they are important to us.

Local fulmars floating nearby of the ship. Photo:  Christian Laber

Local fulmars floating nearby of the ship. Photo: Christian Laber

Though most science stopped momentarily for the fly-by, as our colleagues flew back into the cloud line, we once again entered the labs to continue our first full station. And as of now, the day has been a great success. Many are still busy deploying and operating instruments, however those of us who started our day before the day actually started are winding down for an evenings rest. We expect to have a schedule like this for the next two weeks, so the early mornings have only just begun. I think there’s an old saying: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and able to collect good data on phytoplankton.

The C-130 on its first fly by of the NAAMES-II expedition. Photo: Christian Laber

The C-130 on its first fly by of the NAAMES-II expedition. Photo: Christian Laber

Written by Christian Laber

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 17, 2016

May 17th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

Greetings from Station Zero.

It sounds like something from a bad sci-fi movie, but we are indeed at Station Zero. On most oceanographic cruises there is what is called a “shake down day” or an opportunity to test all your equipment and methods with a test station before the actual ‘real’ sampling begins. Thus, we have conducted a modified version of our sampling scheme, and have dubbed where we stopped Station Zero. We were pretty excited to finally get to a point where we could drop our instruments over the side and collect water. Our excitement came with a midnight start time, but even the early morning hours could not dampen our spirit. Most science groups have worked for months to get prepared enough to take the first sample, so to actually stop and finally sample was exciting!

The first CTD cast of NAAMES-II being guided into the water by our fearless leader Mike Behrenfeld

The first CTD cast of NAAMES-II being guided into the water by our fearless leader Mike Behrenfeld

We are anticipating starting all over again tomorrow morning with our first station. We have some indications from an Argo float that is nearby, that the spring bloom of phytoplankton we are hoping to capture is still increasing in abundance. This is exciting as we were hoping to catch the bloom in just this stage.

Picture of an Argo float being deployed during NAAMES-I

Picture of an Argo float being deployed during NAAMES-I

I wish I could say our occupation of Station Zero ended with an alien invasion, but I think that would just be my sleep deprivation talking. However, it did end with a great level of excitement about what tomorrow, and the first station, will bring.

Written by Elizabeth Harvey

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 16, 2016

May 16th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

As we progress on our journey north, it is as if we are travelling back in time through winter and on towards the Arctic. When we left Woods Hole, we were treated with blue skies, calm (occasionally glassy) seas, and reasonably warm air temperatures; a complete contrast to the November cruise! We have been extremely fortunate with the seas thus far and many of us have weaned ourselves off our seasickness medications. With it being late spring, the daylight hours are long and we have been treated to some spectacular sunsets (and if you’re keen for a 3:30 am start, the sunrises aren’t too shabby either)! The sea life has been more abundant than on the previous cruise with a number of whale and dolphin sightings.

Another beautiful sunset from the aft deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

Another beautiful sunset from the aft deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

Watching the sunrise at 5 am from the O2 deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

Watching the sunrise at 5 am from the O2 deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

But that was all about to change as we entered the ‘ice field’ off the coast of Newfoundland early yesterday morning. Some of us were up at dawn (3 am!) to catch our first glimpse of ice, but alas, we were shrouded in a thick blanket of fog and could barely see 50 m from the boat. It was absolutely freezing and there was certainly an eerie feel; it seemed like we could have been surrounded by icebergs and have no idea about it. But by that point I wasn’t quite sure I even wanted to see an iceberg because if we did, we’d almost certainly be on top of it the fog was that thick (the ship’s foghorn was put to good use)… As the sun rose above the horizon, the fog began to disperse and the sky burned orange. It was pretty special, despite the lack of icebergs. Regardless, excitement bounced around the ship all morning; even some of the crew had donned their cameras in anticipation of the ‘ice’ we were about to see. The fog came and went again and the seas started gathering a bit more momentum. Both the air temperature and the seawater temperature plummeted below 0 °C and the waves began dancing in every direction. But alas, luck was not on our side and the icebergs remained elusive. The crew decided on the ‘path of least resistance’ approach (realistically, the safest option) and managed to clear the ice field by late afternoon. So, no icebergs, but we did get a taste of the Arctic temperatures and colder, rougher weather that is likely to stick with us for a few more days.

Foggy sunrise as we enter the ice field taken from the main deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

Foggy sunrise as we enter the ice field taken from the main deck of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

This evening, we will arrive at Station 0; our first practice station! We will be getting up at midnight to begin overboard sampling and have a ‘wet’ run-through of most of the deployments we will be making at the real stations. I will be collecting water samples from the CTD rosette casts to look at the cycling of small volatile organic compounds by the plankton in the surface ocean (such as the dimethyl sulfide you’ve heard about in previous posts, which can be released into the atmosphere and lead to the formation of aerosols). We think that in surface ocean, the phytoplankton (the tiny ‘plants’ of the ocean) are producing these volatile carbon compounds, just like trees do on land. Have you ever noticed the smell of a pine tree? That comes from volatile compounds released by the pine tree! The phytoplankton do the same, especially when they get stressed out or die and begin to sink down through the water column. That leaves room for the bacteria to come along and feed on all the carbon compounds left by the phytoplankton (just the same as you eat all your vegetables, just like your mother told you…). Any volatile compounds that are not consumed by the bacteria can then get released into the atmosphere, where they have a number of important roles controlling our climate.

The water samples I collect are incubated in polycarbonate chambers that are bubbled with synthetic air; we use synthetic air because it is cleaner than the regular air we breathe in and so we can be sure that anything we measure comes from the seawater (and not the air). Our chambers are kept at seawater temperature and we have blue and white LED lights that we use to simulate the light conditions the plankton might experience in the surface ocean. Compounds that are produced by the plankton will be stripped from the seawater by the bubbling air and we can then measure them with our specialized mass spectrometer, the aptly named ‘James’ – because he is #007 of his kind! James has been kept very busy on the cruise so far, running almost 24/7, because we have been able to collect seawater from the clean flow-through line running through the ship (which pumps surface seawater through from the front of the ship). So we are excited to see what we find! Wish us luck for Station 0 tonight!

James Bond (aka 007) and his incubators. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

James Bond (aka 007) and his incubators. Photo: Cleo Davie-Martin

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: May 15, 2016

May 15th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

I am a part of the Saltzman research group. Tom, our fearless yet cheery leader, and Jack, our resident optimist, night owl, and my lab mate, man the instruments day and night. They make sure that every piece, from the Mustang supercharger to the tiniest of valves, runs smoothly. None of this would be possible without the electrical genius of Cyril, our invaluable engineer. We should really make bets on the number of instruments he saves by the end of the cruise.

Part of our mobilization team. From left: Clayton Elder, Tom Bell, Cyril McCormick, Mackenzie Grieman, and Jack Porter

Part of our mobilization team. From left: Clayton Elder, Tom Bell, Cyril McCormick, Mackenzie Grieman, and Jack Porter


Half of our measurements are made in the aptly nicknamed trailer park. We occupy one of the “vans” two decks up from the main deck of the ship. Our van is a mobile lab in which we strapped down instruments for a week before we left for the cruise. Our instruments are so heavy that, to me, this is the most difficult part of the cruise.

Our decorations on the mast are probably the most intricate and time-intensive parts of our set-up. They wouldn’t have been possible without our mast-builder, Clayton. In order to measure gases and aerosols, we need to bring them into the lab. We have a tube going from the top of the mast to an instrument in the trailer park that continuously measures dimethyl sulfide (DMS). DMS is a gas produced by plankton. DMS measurements will help to examine the relationship between plankton blooms and cloud formation. Tom, Jack, and Cyril (the guys) will talk about the intricacies of this in a later blog post.

Jack and me at the mast set-up

Jack and me at the mast set-up


The mast set-up from the window of the van

The mast set-up from the window of the van


My job is to collect aerosol samples. Aerosols are pumped through my sampler and collected in vials of clean water. I will take ~2,000! of these vials home to measure more obscure plankton-produced organic chemicals. These chemicals get into the atmosphere when bubbles come to the surface of the ocean and burst.

I spend a lot of my time listening to the guys’ in-depth conservations about the functionality of their custom-built instruments between very short Jenga games and running sample vials to and from the trailer park. Running up to the vans at night is a bit of a surreal experience as you fight winds in the dark on your way to the red-lit bouncing trailer park. At least the van hasn’t sprung a leak like it did on the cruise in November (yet!)!! Fingers-crossed!

Written by Mackenzie Grieman

Notes from the Field