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Notes from the Field

Delayed by snow?

February 12th, 2010 by Ed Kim

We’re scheduled to start the field campaign next week, but Goddard has been closed since the previous Friday because of back-to-back snowstorms in Washington, DC. The last week before shipping out on a campaign is always hectic, but we were supposed to have shipped the equipment out days ago.

We have lost a week to the snow storms — ironically, the field campaign is to measure snow! We chose Steamboat Springs, Colorado because we can be sure it will have snow for us, there is a research lab at the top of the mountain, and we have to plan months in advance. Washington often gets little or no snow all winter — but not this winter, we actually broke the all-time record! Too bad we couldn’t have done the campaign in DC — but the rest of the team from other states would not have been able to get to DC.

Fortunately, Goddard was open Feb 12, and the radiometer team, after working hard for weeks to assemble the radiometer, only had time to pack up the equipment — the unfinished wiring (below) would need to be done in Steamboat! If we don’t ship today, we lose 3 days over the holiday weekend, and the equipment would arrive too late. The Goddard shipping department works like mad to find a way to get everything to Steamboat by Feb 16 — it will have to go by air freight. I leave work not knowing if the equipment was shipped today or not, and not knowing when it will arrive.

Inside view of Airborne Earth Science Microwave Imaging Radiometer

Even after it arrives, we’re not exactly sure how to get it up to the top of the mountain where the measurements will be made (at Storm Peak Lab). First we considered towing it by snowmobile. But the size and weight were too much. So we’ll probably have to use a snow cat, the kind of tracked vehicle used to groom the ski trails up and down the mountain. These snow cats are huge; it will be hard to lift our equipment onto them and then off at the top of the mountain.

Grooming cats

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