Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ozonesondes with Met Tech Jane

Ozonesondes. These fly on a weather balloon and collect ozone measurements periodically as they rise. The data is sent back to earth by an antenna. Usually, these are buddies with a radiosonde, which measures pressure, temperature, relative humidity, etc. They are taped together, put on the same balloon, and all the data gets sent back to the computer together in real time.
The weather station launches one per week through most of the year. During the ACE Validation campaign, they're launched just about every day. This morning, Jane The Meteorological Technician was kind enough to let me look over her shoulder as she prepared the ozonesonde for launch.

She plugged it into a machine that can feed ozone or clean air into the sonde. This is to check whether the sonde is sensitive to ozone, and to changes in ozone. She turns the ozone flow on, lets it reach a certain level, then turns it off and sees how much ozone the sonde is measuring as the ozone levels decrease.

Next, she checks the flow rate. There's a little tube that hangs outside of the ozonesonde box in order to suck air in from the atmosphere. There's another tube for the air the sonde spits out the other end. That's the end she hooks up to the burette (the glass tube on the wall). She puts a tiny bit of soapy water down the burette to get it wet. And then, for the next 5 minutes, she earns her living by blowing bubbles. She uses the red bulb at the bottom to squeeze a little of the soapy water into a bubble. Then the air pressure from the outlet of the sonde pushes the bubble up the tube.

She times how long it takes the bubble to get to the top (29 seconds, if you're wondering), and this gives a measure of the sonde's flow rate. This bubble method works better than I would have thought! If you squeeze just one bubble, it's pretty easy to see where it is.

Once the sonde is all checked out, it's time to screw on the interface board. Ah, hardware. This job allows me to make myself useful for 4.3 seconds. This will let the ozonesonde talk to the radiosonde.

Then it's time to pack it all in the styrofoam box! It will get a radiosonde attached to the outside of the box just before its time to launch it after supper tonight.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My noggin is warm.

Hi Mum! Hi Dad!

Don't worry. I'm warm. On my head are:
1 balaclava
1 neckwarmer
1 wool hat
1 headlamp
1 pair of goggles
1 hood
1 more hood, when I went outside.

... it was midnight, and cold out.

Can't complain about a view like this! With the laser finally working, and LabmateChris taking measurements from Halifax, it's time for a lidar photoshoot and then sleep.

Long day, but a productive one.

It doesn't really look like this

Well, it DOES really look like this in the summer, but it is not summer right now. Google Maps and Satellite photos should make their next trick the ability to flip between photos from two opposite seasons for any given location. That would be NEAT. For a while, the low-res imagery of Eureka was winter with sea ice, and the high-res was summer. I'm not sure whether it's still like that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Will something like that work?" suggests Volodya

 Indeed it WILL work, Volodya, indeed it will.

You see this teeensy tiny little wire?
It's itty bitty. Little. Not even that specialized. However... if you're trying to make your laser go without one - well, that's not going to work particularly well if you want it to, you know, lase.

It belongs here:
It connects the two flashlamp electrodes to each other. Kind of like when you have to line up a bunch of batteries in a flashlight - if they're not all touching each other in series, then you won't complete the circuit, and it won't work.

I was feeling GREAT about the pump chamber install yesterday, right up until the point at which the laser proceeded not to lase. It wouldn't even flash. Pro Tip: Put all the pieces back in first. Pro Tip Number Two: If for whatever reason, you don't HAVE all the pieces at the north pole... well, find a spare somewhere. Or, in my case, send your colleagues out foraging.

So here's a huge shout-out to the Ridge-Lab members of the ACE Validation team here in Eureka. They suffered through my pleas during breakfast. While they were cornered so to speak, and not quite awake enough to fend me off, I fed very grainy low-res photos of the part I needed into their brains. I left them with the request of "If you see one of *these*, then please let me know!! It's got grey ends, like this. And it's little, like that. And... ".

Did they laugh? Yes. Roll their eyes at my own wide eyed optimism? I decline to say. But did they come back from the big red building on the hill with the appropriate part in their pocket? Also yes.

Paul and Volodya were pretty sure we could cobble something together if needed, but that's never the first plan (and not always a feasible or sensible plan at all) at an isolated lab. So the laser could have been out of commission until the next plane came in.

Today, teamwork is good, and teamwork mean that measurements can go on.

As of 7:59 PM, the pump chamber has been re-installed, and so far is even cooperating by not leaking. Go, Science, Go!

I will not eat them in a box, I will not eat them with a fox.

Sometimes I fix broken stuff. And sometimes, I visit with a fox instead.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The many hats of Lab Emily

Starting out the morning with a relaxing flashlamp change for the laser. Flashlamps are skinny little lightbulbs (see one on the right in the photo) and they get worn out the longer they run. Worn out flashlamps = sucky laser power. Lidar folks are usually interested in More Power!

I was also a plumber. Refilled the laser's cooling system with distilled water, and checked for leaks. Then fixed the hugest leaks. Then tested again. Then filled the smaller leaks that I couldn't see for the huge ones before. Then tested again. Then thought it was okay. Then tested for longer. Then found a teensy tiny leak that would have proved bad later in the campaign. Had to replace a part to fix that one. Luckily, we had several proper spares, and several not-made-for-that-purpose-exactly-but-would-have-worked spares.

 This is Zen's instrument. The back panel is kind of huge and heavy, so he gets to have company over to his lab anytime he needs to open his instrument.

Installing the pump chamber back in the laser. Also, you can see my new hat. I like it. It is green and keeps me warm.

Also, I'm learning some new things, including how to take video of stuff. We practiced today, and all the photos in this post are stills grabbed from video (hence the fuzziness).

These are the same photos that I passed to Dan today to put on the Official Campaign Website, which will be up in a few days. You can check out previous years campaign websites here:

Because the campaign is starting a little later in the year than it does usually, there's already a good bit of daylight each day, and the sun is up for 22 additional minutes every day. Doesn't make *much* difference when I'm working on the inside of the shipping-container-turned-laboratory, but it will make things way nicer tomorrow when I do some maintenance work on the hatch switches on the roof!

First evening at the lab

Yes, I'm officially a binge blogger. I had some catching up to do.

Last night, after supper, room assignments & unpacking, Zen and I headed over to the 0PAL lab behind the weather station. He works on the E-AERI (it's an interferometer) which is neighbours with the CRL lidar that I work on, so we're lab buddies.

Some things were good finds:
1. The hatch opened. Using the motor. Like it's s'posed to. The heaters were already on.
2. The lab looked happy and clean and things in good shape.
3. It was acceptably toasty in most parts of the building.

On the other hand, I also had it in mind to check whether I had sufficient distilled water remaining to fill the laser's cooling system. I found this:

Yep, sure is. Exactly what it looks like. Frozen solid to the floor.... while the ceiling of the lab was 20 degrees C.

It's good to be back in the lab!

The Dash-8

I seem to have neglected to present the glory that is the Dash-8 airplane. This little (comparatively) luxurious airliner came complete with slightly-less-noise-than-a-dornier-airplane, a stewardess (who was making her first trip further north than Res), two chocolate bars, and speed. We made it to Eureka at about 5:15 PM (convenient because supper was still in the offing at the station), having left YK at 9:00 AM. There's a time difference in there, so it wasn't as long as it seems.

Bus and Plane and Plane and Plane and truck. And a lab.

After a shuttle from London to Toronto, flights through Edmonton to Yellowknife, and overnight stay in a hotel, the Polar Sunrise crew awaits departure from the Arctic Sunwest charter terminal.

The plane ride started out a bit cloudy. Before we gained more altitude than the clouds, we could see rock and trees and a million frozen lakes - a snowmobiler's paradise! 

The scenery between Yellowknife and Resolute Bay: Lots of sea ice! It was cloudy for the first while, but then cleared right up and gave clear views of the ground.

 The first clear, calm day I think I've ever seen in Res! Good weather DOES exist there (at least for one day). Proof:

 The good thing about good weather in Resolute, particularly if it's a refueling stop that day, is that you're able to take off again. Quite frequently the weather is decent enough to land, but then not good enough to fly out again 20 minutes later. It's also way prettier when it's not socked in and windy and overcast.

Cornwallis Island, near Resolute Bay. So pretty. And you can see how thin our atmosphere is from this perspective, too.
 Home-Sweet-Eureka! The first sighting of the lab from the plane. Can you see Upper Paradise (with its satellite dishes) and the PEARL lab (red building on top of the ridge)? The part of the road that you see leading from the centre of the photo to the lower left heads toward Skull Point. The road to the Weather Station (where we sleep and eat) is on a not-very-visible-in-this-picture road from Upper Paradise down to the lower right.
We're Heee-eeer! Our journey ends with the fun activity of loading enormously heavy boxes into pickup trucks for the ride from the Eureka runway to the Weather Station.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lab work is better with goldfish

It's the start of another trip to the Arctic for the 2013 Polar Sunrise Arctic ACE Validation Campaign at Eureka, and the lab work begins long before I catch my 2:30 AM shuttle ride to the airport.
 Between springtime measurement campaigns, I am based at the University of Western Ontario in London. I am analyzing measurement data, writing scientific papers, going to seminar classes, working in our other lidar lab (Purple Crow Lidar) or running outreach programs at the CronynObservatory. With the 2013 campaign approaching, the focus shifts back to lidar measurements from Eureka.

The way I look at the 2012 measurement data changes from “Science! What does this data tell us about the atmosphere?” to “What can this data tell us about how we should run the campaign next time? Should we change any settings? What calibration runs should we do?” My long-distance-labmate Chris Perro (at the aolab at Dalhousie University in Halifax) and I both suggest things, compare notes, and re-visit anything we don't agree on. Our PhD supervisors Prof. Bob Sica and Prof. Tom Duck chime in once we've got a clear plan fleshed out.
This is Chris.
In the weeks leading up to the campaign, I gather all the equipment that I will bring with me. Chris ships any supplies and laser parts to me at Western in a fancy-looking armoured metal case, for me to include in my carry-on luggage This is either “fun” or “a pain” to get through airport security, depending on your sense of humour. I rate it as: More fun than trying to explain to US customs that you're going to work at an electron accelerator lab for the summer without saying the words “work”, “radiation”, “electron”, “nuclear” in your explanation. It is less fun than just packing the darned thing in checked baggage.
My pet goldfish help me unpack and inspect the laser pump chambers. What's a pump chamber? It's the thing that turns energy from regular light into laser light which is all one colour (bright green, in our case) and all headed the same direction. Without it, nothing works. This is a tiny piece of the whole laser setup.
Before packing, I check out all the equipment to make sure that it is all in good shape. The cylindrical rod in the pump chamber is carved from of one long “Nd:YAG” crystal (Neodymium doped with Yttrium, Aluminum and Garnet... it's a transparent and pretty light pink colour). The ends of the rod need to be polished and free from any defects or dirt. 

Feeling like Sherlock Holmes meets CSI, I use my magnifying glass and flashlight to inspect the ends of the laser rod in the pump chamber.
With everything tested and packed, I'm ready for the Northern adventures to begin!

Hello, World!

2011 and 2012 held Arctic ACE Validation Campaigns during the polar sunrise period at Eureka. Blog posts during this time = 0, but rest assured that productivity during these campaigns != 0. The 2012 campaign was actually really productive.

The next post will be back to tourist photos and action shots. For now... here is the poster I presented at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco last December.

I'm back in the Arctic for the 2013 spring campaign, and so is the blog!