NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 19, 2018

March 20th, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

Adios, San Juan!

View of the water from a porthole in the main lab on board the R/V Atlantis

Today, we said goodbye (or rather adios) to the port of San Juan and hello/hola to the Atlantic Ocean. The past few days have been a whirlwind of unpacking, setting up our gear, securing our gear, mounting sensors, stretching cable from one end of the ship to the other, testing instruments, attending safety briefings and science meetings, meeting our fellow scientists and getting to know the crew…all while trying to fit in some exploring in Old San Juan and soaking up the Caribbean sun and sea while we can! After working for most of the day in the hot sun, carrying boxes in and out of labs and pinning sensors to the highest possible points on the ship, it was a treat to walk just a few blocks from the ship to a public beach with a protected inlet for swimming a few laps in the crystal clear ocean. As if this beach could get any more picturesque, after passing showers in the afternoon, the scene was perfectly set for a rainbow over the horizon. We oceanographers are certainly lucky when our work takes us to such stunning places.

This morning (after one last ocean swim for the dedicated masters swimmers J), we waved goodbye to the fans and helpers who came to see us off. We sailed out of the Isleta de San Juan, where R/V Atlantis has been docked for the past several days, past the old fort, and into deeper waters. Once underway, we practiced muster drills to know where to go and what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency. The science team has never looked more glamorous than when we all donned our immersion suits together—30+ people getting used to the new roll of the boat, bumbling around in our gumby suits. Let’s hope someone took a picture.

View of an old fort as the R/V Atlantis sailed out of the Isleta de San Juan towards deeper waters.

With Puerto Rico fading into the background, we watched the water color change from the bright, milky turquoise (filled with the occasional reef fish or even an octopus darting under the ship last night!) of the inland lagoon to a deep azure dotted with whitecaps. As a member of the Optics Team onboard NAAMES 4, my lab mate James Allen and I are always interested in characterizing the color and brightness of the ocean to tell us more about what is in the water. When we get on station in a few days, we will use a number of different sensors to tell us about the light hitting the surface of the ocean and how that light is absorbed and scattered by water and other things as it travels to depth. We have sensors mounted on the ship to measure the light coming from the sun, and we will send other instruments down into the water to describe the concentration of phytoplankton and other particles.

We may have said farewell to the rocky reefs and white sands of San Juan, but there was a perceptible air of excitement from everyone on the ship as we finally started to move. Now, with dreams of spring blooms and calm seas (not likely, but we can dream!), we face our next adventure: the North Atlantic!

Written by Sasha Kramer

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-IV Expedition: March 18, 2018

March 19th, 2018 by Kristina Mojica

In 30 days I’ll be a salty veteran.  I’m going out to sea for 3 1/2 weeks with a group of scientists I’ve never met, a fellow lab mate, and a professor from Rutgers.  We’re traveling to the North Atlantic to cleverly observe the largest assemblage of phytoplankton on our planet.  I’ve heard these research expeditions are grueling – not much sleep every night, waking at impossible hours (11pm), and intense sampling work every day for weeks on end.  However, as I become accustomed to the ship and the crew of scientists, engineers, and deckhands as we set up our mobilized laboratory, I can feel the sense of community and warmness, not of stress and hardship.  My lab mate hugs every scientist he knows as he sees them for the first time since the last expedition, and I meet scientists from around the USA.  Exuberant scientists from different labs are explaining how their instruments work to others, just for the sake of learning.

Each scientists knows their duty – to propel their minds past the limits of what they know about their surroundings, and report back.  However, even amongst the high level of expertise and knowledge of professors and NASA employees, I don’t feel a sense of competition.

View of the R/V Atlantis from the San Juan, Puerto Rico dock

Today, docked in San Juan, we prepare for deployment, and diverse groups of scientists bond over beer after work.  Some set up planes which fly by our ship when it will venture into the Atlantic, and collect cloud samples.  Some are constructing scaffolds which collect the mist pushing off of the sea surface.  Our lab collects samples of seawater at various depths.  Each lab has sent out experts in their field, taking as many samples as they can.

Ben Diaz (left) and Kay Bidle (right) making the dream work

When it’s over, it’s up to each lab group to coordinate with other scientists and piece together a picture of what’s happening.  Can phytoplankton influence cloud formation? Is it possible that this mass of phytoplankton contributes to what we call seasons?  How do different particles or plastics found in seawater influence the interaction between phytoplankton and the atmosphere? We don’t know how the pieces will come together just yet, but we all love the process.

Written by Ben Diaz

International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP): 2018 Winter Olympics End, But ICE-POP Continues

February 28th, 2018 by Ivan Arias

Soohorang (one of the mascots of Pyeongchang 2018) saying goodbye on the night of the closing ceremony. Photo by Ivan Arias.

The first part of the ICE-POP campaign ended last Sunday when the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were officially finished. However, we will closely monitor the weather and provide information from Pyeongchang during the Paralympics as well. The strong wind that characterized the Olympics has stopped blowing in the last week. This brought unexpected changes in the weather. Also this week was crucial for the campaign since the closing ceremony was scheduled. The ICE-POP team closely monitored the sensors to notice any signature that could help predict any weather that could affect the last days of competition. One of these events occurred on February 23, when D3R Radar from NASA detected unexpected snow coming in. The figure below shows radar reflectivity from D3R for this event after it had developed.

D3R PPI Reflectivity image at Ku frequency band.

Due to the closing of the games, transportation was difficult last week. There were traffic jams and long lines everywhere. It is not an easy task to run a field campaign during a massive event such as the Olympics; it takes a lot of work and logistics. None of this would have been possible without KMA staff, who have coordinated carefully each and every detail of this campaign and have been such wonderful hosts. Many thanks to them. The next picture shows personnel of KMA, NASA, and CSU sharing a cup of coffee while planning some strategies for the campaign.

Photo by Hyejin Lee

International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP): Forecasting Snow is a Difficult Task in Pyeongchang

February 21st, 2018 by Ivan Arias

Gangneung and Daewallyeong, the cities where the Winter Olympics are taking place, have a unique characteristic for precipitation. The cold and dry front from Siberia converges with the moist air of the Korean East Sea to produce stratiform clouds that occasionally precipitate over the PyeongChang province. This condition where the precipitation comes from the east is difficult for forecasters to predict. When the clouds are formed from the west due to low pressure, prediction is difficult because the ground-based radar’s sensing is limited due to the complex orography. Thus, no matter whether snow comes from east or west, it is always hard for meteorologists to forecast weather it in this area. Nevertheless, snow clouds in the region have a particular characteristic, they normally form around 2 kilometers over the sea level.

On February 13th, the D3R Radar from NASA which is located near PyeongChang captured a low elevation snow formation coming from the west which can be seen in the following images.

On the left is D3R RHI Reflectivity image at Ku frequency band, and on the right is D3R PPI Reflectivity image at Ku frequency band.


Compound Weather Radar Map of Korea by KMA.

However, no other operational radars from Korea were able to see the snow coming because of the complex relief where outdoor Olympic venues are located. The image below, taken from the KMA website, shows no snow around the PyeongChang region.

The D3R images allowed KMA staff to predict unexpected snow three hours before it started. Television screen captures taken on this day from the NBC Olympics broadcast (below) show snowfall during the cross country classic spring competition.

Photos of NBC live streaming the Winter Olympic Games.

International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP): Keeping an Eye on Weather During the Opening Ceremony

February 14th, 2018 by Ivan Arias

International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP 2018) is a field campaign that is taking place during the 2018 Winter Olympics held at Pyeongchang, South Korea. It brings state of the art weather sensors from all over the world, and the Dual-frequency Dual-polarized Doppler radar (D3R) from NASA is among them. Around 30 agencies and organizations from 12 different countries are involved in this program including NASA, NOAA, Colorado State University, and the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) among others.

Some of the instruments including the D3R are located on the roof of the KMA, Daegwallyeong office as shown in the picture below.

Photo by Aaron Dabrowski.

On the the roof to the left is a scanning wind lidar from Canada. Next to it on the right is NASA’s D3R from United States, in the back is T-Rex UCLM from Spain, and in the far background of the picture a glimpse of Alpensia Olympic Park can be seen. With the main games happening just a few kilometers away, these instruments are useful for making better predictions of the weather.

Around 35,000 people and 16 state leaders attended the 2018 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. However, what most of them were not aware of is that if a snow storm occurred on the day of event, it would be relocated to an indoor venue since the Pyeongchang Stadium does not have a roof. It was a tough day for the people checking all the ICE-POP instruments and monitoring the weather forecast. The most stressful part was when the radar captured some snow formations 6 hours before the ceremony started. However, close monitoring of the weather dynamics allowed the meteorologists from KMA to predict that no significant snow would reach Pyeongchang, so there was no need to make changes for the ceremony. The below picture shows staff at the KMA Daegwallyeong office during the opening ceremony.

Photo by Ivan Arias.

The ICE-POP group didn’t take their eyes off the sensors the entire night, except to see the fireworks. The below picture shows a view of the opening ceremony fireworks from the KMA Daegwallyeong office.

Photo by Kwonil Kim.

Notes from the Field