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Permalink 10:35:32 am, by millercommamatt, 258 words   English (US)
Categories: General


A few nights ago, the Ronald Brown stopped so we could perform what is called a CTD. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, depth and is a tool to measure those and other physical characteristics of seawater. In a way, you can think of a CTD as the ocean equivalent of an upper-air sounding for the atmosphere. Scientists gain information about ocean characteristics for a variety of depths.

The CTD device itself, is actually a host of instruments attached to a large metal rosette. There are various sensors and probes. As you can see, arrayed around the rosette is a series of gray cylinders. These are called Niskin bottles. Each bottle fills with water as the CTD is lowered into the ocean, often to depths exceeding 4000 meters. Each Niskin bottle is set to close at a different depth and they allow scientists to collect samples of water from a variety of depths that can then be subjected to laboratory analysis.

The first CTD the Ronald Brown attempted wasn't actually able to be conducted. The overhead boom that extends the CTD over the side of the ship wouldn't properly extend. However, the crew managed to get it fixed the next day and they proceeded to conduct the CTD.

Chief Survey Technician Jonathan Shannahoff (in the orange work vest) supervises the deployment of the CTD

Kind and heartfelt statements of love, joy, and mutual admiration are exchanged among the involved parties once they realize the boom arm won't extend

The boom now functioning, the CTD device is lowered into the water


Permalink 02:49:00 pm, by millercommamatt, 178 words   English (US)
Categories: Meteorology

The Southeast Pacific

The satellite image below is from this morning. The position of the Ronald Brown at the time this image was captured in denoted by the green cross. As you can see by my labels, open-cell and closed-cell stratocumulus are clearly visible. These clouds are part of what VOCALS aims to study.

Some of you are probably asking, "What's the difference between the open-cell and closed-cell sratocumulus clouds?" If you think about stratocumulus clouds forming like a honeycomb (which they do), the open cells are the ones where the cloud is around the outside of the honeycomb cell with an open middle. The closed cells are the ones where the cloud is in the middle of the honeycomb cell with clear areas on the periphery. The circulations of air inside of these cells are opposite of each other. For closed cells, the air rises in the middle and sinks around the edges. For open cells, the air rises around the edges and sinks in the middle.

Satellite imagery of the vicinity of the Ron Brown in the Southeast Pacific.

Permalink 02:07:00 pm, by millercommamatt, 117 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Meteorology

Night Releases

As I said in my previous post, we're releasing balloons around the clock as part of the VOCALS project here on the Ronald Brown. There's not really anything special about night launches except for the fact that you usually wish you were in bed instead of having to make a sounding. Anyway, I just thought that I would share a picture - of me this time - from last night's 00:00 UTC sounding. As you can see in the picture, I'm filling the balloon in preparation for the launch.

Matthew Miller,your distinguished author, filling a sounding balloon.
Photo Credit: Lelia Hawkins, SCRIPPS

P.S. To anyone who chuckled at the title of this post, shame on you. :)


Permalink 05:25:14 pm, by millercommamatt, 666 words   English (US)
Categories: Meteorology

Balloon Upper-Air Soundings

Now that the ship is in full research mode, we're launching balloon upper-air soundings six times per day. That's every four hours around the clock. Some of my readers are probably asking themselves right now, "What's a balloon upper-air sounding?" Let me explain.

Meteorologists need to have information about the wind, temperature, and pressure structures in the atmosphere not just at the surface, but throughout the whole troposphere and well into the stratosphere. To obtain the information we need, we take a device, called a sonde, which has a temperature and humidity probe, a GPS antenna, and a radio transmitter and strap it to a balloon that travels high into the atmosphere recording information and transmitting it back to the surface. When it's all said and done, for the launch location you will be able to see the temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction for any given height or pressure level that the balloon passed through.

Read more »

Permalink 08:21:01 am, by millercommamatt, 161 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Meteorology

Peruvian Waters

Good morning everyone. The Ronald Brown is now is Peruvian waters, a place we actually have permission to take data. So, from now on, all the data we collect we can use for publishable research. Both of the radars that I've been tasked with overseeing are up and running, we're currently launching balloon soundings every fours hours around the clock, and I'm taking photographs of the clouds 360 degrees around the ship in 30 degree intervals. The other scientists on board are running more instruments that I can count measuring everything from seawater salinity to DMS concentrations. Things on the board our going to start getting real interesting and very busy. All the oceanographers are itching to start throwing instruments into the water, a process which always involves a lot of the deck crew. I'll start posting pictures as some of the more interesting experiments get underway. Expect pictures of us trying to release balloons from a windy deck in the near future.


Permalink 12:47:44 pm, by millercommamatt, 86 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Meteorology

Southern Hemisphere

The Ronald Brown is now in the Southern Hemisphere! Crossing the equator by ship has a long and... we'll call it colorful nautical tradition. Thankfully, these are not anachronistic times and there isn't any hazing to fend off. In fact, most of the crew and scientists have crossed multiple times so most haven't bothered to notice. Anyway, I'll take this moment and enjoy this as a sign that we're making progress and that we're that much closer to our primary study area in the Southeast Pacific.

Permalink 11:42:27 am, by millercommamatt, 211 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Meteorology

Fire Alarms

I was sleeping late this morning because I was up late last night for our 06:00 UTC (3:00am ship time, 2:00am EDT) balloon sounding launch. I was half asleep this morning and quite comfortable when I was rousted out of bed rather suddenly by a fire alarm. It turns out that the fire detection system on the ship is pretty sensitive. One of the ocean technicians on board set the fire alarms off while doing some soldering work while assembling some sonar equipment. As a result, I got to traipse up to our secondary muster location in the mess area in my pajamas with my hair sticking up everywhere and my eyes still full of sleep. Once the alarm was canceled and we were free to go back about our business, I figured that I would grab a shower and start my day. I had all my shower materials pulled out, my towel in had, and was getting ready to undress when the fire alarm went off again. So, I had to head back to the mess deck in my PJs again. I'm actually rather thankful that the second fire alarm didn't come about 90 seconds later. I would have probably had to show up for muster rather damp and most likely grumpy.


Permalink 10:29:44 pm, by millercommamatt, 379 words   English (US)
Categories: General, Meteorology

Casualties of Science

I'm writing this post to salute a fallen soldier. Today, Saturday the 18th of of October, my noble laptop, dubbed Argon, suffered a hard drive failure and can no longer answer the call of duty or the call to process radar data. All I'm left with now is my other noble laptop, Neon.

This situation is the exact reason we bring redundant equipment into the field. I can't just run to Best Buy or order a replacement part from New Egg. FedEx, despite their nearly global reach, doesn't offer a service to bring shipments to moving vessels in the open ocean. I'm going to work with the electronics technician on the ship to see if I can recover some files from the failed hard drive. All our instrument data is safely backed up on external hard drives, but I have some scripts I wrote that I didn't backup to alternate locations. Those scripts automate some of my tasks and make my life easier. As you can imagine, I'd like to extract them from the failed hard drive so I don't have to spend time rewriting them. The loss of Argon means that I'm now restricted to working on one laptop so my ability to multitask is impaired. It's nice being able to do something on one computer while the other one is busy executing a task that you ought to let it do alone without trying to run several applications on top of that.

Anyway, when Jake takes my place for leg 2 of the VOCALS cruise in Arica, we should be able to resurrect Argon if he brings a new hard drive.

But I'm not dead yet!

Update: It would seem that Argon isn't as dead as it first appeared. This morning I put the HDD from Argon into Neon and everything worked. So, I put the HDD back into Argon and everything still worked. The only thing I can think of as changing between yesterday afternoon and this morning is heat. I'm going to keep an eye on things and see what I can do to prevent a reoccurrence of death.

Update 2: Argon locked up again after about 40 minutes of use. If it's only going to work for short periods I'm going to take it out of use.

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This is where I rant about whatever I want. Here is where I share my thoughts, dreams, strange ideas, and general commentary on my life and the world around me.


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