Monday, August 19, 2019

OTREC joins the hunt for a hurricane!

On Sunday August 18, 2019, I had the exciting opportunity to participate in my first ever research flight. 

Me, with the NOAA P-3 in the background after the flight
Over the weekend, OTREC collaborated with NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD) to investigate a tropical disturbance that has been identified as “Invest 95E” by the National Hurricane Center – which means that this disturbance has the potential to develop into a hurricane and is something worth investigating.  I got to fly on the NOAA P-3 airplane (NOAA-42, affectionately named “Kermit”).  This airplane is one of the famous “Hurricane Hunters”, which regularly fly into hurricanes to take in situ observations that are vital for the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, as well as flying research missions. The picture below shows all the hurricanes that the plane has flown through – more than 100! It truly is an impressive aircraft that can withstand flying through almost any type of condition and is outfitted with a lot of specialized equipment for monitoring hurricanes.
A sticker for each hurricane that this airplane has flown through. The most recent one was Hurricane Michael (2018), which devastated the Florida Panhandle near where I live in Tallahassee, FL.
Since HRD was interested in researching the “genesis”, or formation, of a hurricane, and OTREC is about organization of convection, this was a perfect opportunity for the two teams to work together. Unlike the NCAR/NSF Gulfstream-V (G-V) aircraft that is being used in OTREC, the P-3 flies much slower (it is powered by four huge propellers) and much lower to the ground. On this flight, the P-3 flew between 10,000 and 20,000 ft and “hunted” the center and measured precipitation around the disturbance, while the G-V flew much higher, at more than 40,000 ft, to sample the environment around the disturbance. This combination provides a much more complete picture of the environment around the disturbance than a single plane could provide. Since this system might turn into a hurricane later this week, it was a very exciting opportunity to observe the convection as it organized and as a circulation formed.

Me looking official with my headset aboard the NOAA P-3. 
I arrived at NOAA’s pre-flight briefing at the early hour of 4:45 AM, and we took off at 7 AM. Our first objective was to locate the center of the circulation. Luckily, there was a recent overpass of the disturbance by “ASCAT”, which is a satellite that measures surface winds. The satellite observations gave us a good initial guess for where the center was. Throughout the flight, we released dropsondes, which measure the characteristics of the atmosphere (temperature, humidity, pressure, and winds) as they fall from the plane, and “Airborne EXpendable BathyThermographs (AXBTs)”, which measure the characteristics of the upper ocean after they fall into the ocean.  Since a warm upper ocean is important for hurricane formation, we wanted to measure those characteristics as well -- we measured sea surface temperatures of 28 degrees C (about 82 F). 

The P-3 also has many other instruments, including a tail Doppler radar (TDR). This is different from the HIAPER cloud radar on the G-V; instead of looking down to measure clouds, the P-3’s tail Doppler radar scans vertically from the back of the plane at two different angles to get an inside look at the structure of the convection. The P-3 also has a “lower fuselage radar”, mounted on the belly of the plane, that scans horizontally. It was really cool to watch the real time measurements from these radars and connect what I could see from the radar with what the clouds looked like outside my window!
Approaching a thunderstorm (left of image). Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 9:25 AM local time (15:25 UTC) on August 18, 2019. Position 11.5 N, 94.7 W

Photo of the onboard display showing the flight track (green line), flight level winds (barbs) and image from the lower fuselage radar. We were flying around the thunderstorm indicated by the green, yellow, and orange colors in the radar image.

Getting closer to the thunderstorm, with clouds around us in all directions. Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 9:27 AM local time (15:27 UTC) on August 18, 2019. Position 11.4 N, 94.6 W. 
Photo of the onboard display showing the returns from the tail Doppler radar. The left and right images are scans at different angles. The colored radar returns on the right side of each image show the precipitation in the thunderstorm we were flying past (ignore the values at the bottom of the images, that is the ground). The radar is located on the tail of the plane which is in the center of the image. 
The tropical disturbance was not particularly well organized while we were flying around in it. There was a weak circulation but most of the convection was displaced to the west of the center. Much of the time I saw plenty of convective clouds outside my window,

A healthy distribution of convective clouds. Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 9:51 AM local time (15:51 UTC) on August 18, 2019. Position 10.2 N, 93.1 W.
but there were other times where it was much clearer and I could see the ocean surface!

Cirrus above, scattered trade cumulus clouds below, but lots of clear sky through which to view the ocean surface. Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 11:50 AM local time (17:50 UTC) on August 19, 2019. Position 11.5 N, 91.8 W. 
Comparing the winds at the flight-level of the P-3 with the winds at the flight-level of the G-V (higher up) shows that the winds were blowing in different directions at the different heights. Take a look at the figure below, showing the flight paths of the P-3 at a low altitude (in yellow) and the G-V at a high altitude (in red). If you look on the left side of the graph, you can see that the winds measured by the P-3 are coming from the southwest, while the winds measured by the G-V are coming from the northeast. This indicates vertical wind shear, which makes it harder for a hurricane to form.

Flight tracks of the NCAR/NSF G-V (in red) and NOAA P-3 (in yellow) on August 18, 2019. The wind barbs indicate the flight level winds (red for the G-V, black for the P-3) The P-3 flew between 10,000 and 20,000 feet, while the G-V flew above 40,000 feet. Note that the middle diagonal section of the G-V (red) track is not the actual track there, there is missing data.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few days – today, the convection seems to be better organized! The National Hurricane Center predicts that it has a 80% chance of developing in the next 2 days. The data that the P-3 and G-V collected will be valuable in understanding why the system does or does not form a hurricane.

All in all, despite the very early start (I am not a morning person!) it was an incredibly exciting and fascinating day! I am very grateful to NOAA/HRD for letting me tag along on their flight, and to the OTREC team for letting me participate in the field campaign. Below are my two favorite photos from the flight. 

Mostly clear skies just off the coast of Costa Rica, shortly after takeoff. Some scattered shallow cumulus clouds, cirrus overhead, and a developing thunderstorm (left of image). Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 7:17 AM local (13:17 UTC) on August 18, 2019. Position 10.9 N, 86.2 W.
A thunderstorm with overshooting convection above the spreading anvil, with thick clouds at flight level (10,000 ft) and cirrus overhead. Photo taken from the window of the NOAA P-3 at 8:12 AM local (14:12 UTC) on August 18, 2019. Position 12.0 N, 90.4 W.

Stratocumulus to Stratiform and Everything Between (Warning: Long, Wonky)

I was going to write something about why an atmospheric scientist like me, who identifies primarily as a theorist and modeler, should go in the field --- and why I not only take every opportunity I can to do so, but bring as many students, postdocs and younger colleagues with me when I do. But my students Melanie and Zane have already written so articulately and persuasively on that theme that there is not that much left for me to say about it. So today I am going to write about science, and in particular some of what we observed on the NCAR GV flight I went on a week ago, August 12.

On that flight, we performed our B2 pattern, in which the plane makes a rectangular zigzag or "lawnmower" pattern from south to north (see the maps in this blog's first post), with the first east-west leg at 3N and the last around 11N up near our landing point at Liberia airport. At the southern end, one is close to the equatorial cold tongue, so the sea surface temperature is relatively cool. Then it warms up as one goes north. The sea surface temperature (SST) gradient, or spatial contrast between south and north, is sharper here in the eastern Pacific than just about anywhere else in the Tropics, and this is one of the most important motivations for doing OTREC here.

The sharp SST gradient has effects on the atmospheric circulation, and the clouds within it, that are central to some ongoing debates about the dynamics of the tropical atmosphere. Today, I'm not going to resolve those debates, though, nor even explain what they are. Instead, I'm going to show a few pictures to illustrate a beautiful example of something that I've long taught students about, but never observed so directly myself. Namely, the transition in cloud types over as the SST increases: from stratocumulus; to trade cumulus; to isolated deep convection, or "congestus" clouds; to organized deep convection. Each type of cloud is deeper than the one before, as the air at the surface becomes warmer, moister, and more buoyant, with increasing SST, and thus able to rise higher in the tropical atmosphere. That's about as much as I'm going to explain the physics; from here on out it's just pictures.

Below is a photo I took out the window from near 3N, just before we started the first west-east leg of our lawnmower pattern. That's a deck of low stratocumulus cloud, though one with some holes in it. The cloud top was less than 1 km above the ocean surface; I know this because of the temperature and humidity profiles taken by the dropsondes on this leg, one of which is shown below, and all of which were quite similar. To my surprise, the downward-pointing cloud radar on the plane couldn't see these clouds at all (not shown), but the radar engineer on board explained that this was not surprising to her. The water droplets that make up these kinds of clouds tend to be quite small, so they don't reflect the radar beam very strongly. Also, we were high up (around 42,000 feet, or nearly 13 km) and the clouds were quite low, so that large distance also makes the clouds harder for the radar to see.

Photo taken from the window of the NCAR GV at 7:21 local time (1321 UTC) on August 12, 2019. Position 3.1N, 86.0W.

Below is the first dropsonde trace of the flight, from near where the above photo was taken. If you know how to read a skew-T it shows you a well-mixed subcloud layer topped by a thin saturated layer (i.e., cloud) and a sharp inversion above it, a bit below the 925 hPa pressure level. This is a typical marine stratocumulus-topped boundary layer, entirely consistent with the photo.
Skew-T diagram from dropsonde released near the time and place of the photo shown above.

On the next leg - a little while later, a couple of degrees higher latitude (5.5N), and a bit warmer SST - we started to see rows of "trade" (that is, shallow) cumulus poking up through the stratocumulus. These were not isolated cumulus clouds, but rather organized in long streets. You can see that the stratocumulus is getting thinned out and breaking up. This behavior has been explained as a consequence of the deepening cumuli entraining more dry air from above the inversion, evaporating the cloud water.
Photo taken from the NCAR GV at 8:42 local time (1442 UTC) on August 12, 2019. Position 5.3N, 87.6W).
Just a little while later, along the same leg (so, still at 5.5N), the stratocumulus deck disappeared entirely, leaving only the shallow cumulus streets.
Photo taken from the NCAR GV at 8:51 local time (1451 UTC) on August 12, 2019. Position 5.3N, 88.7W).  
A dropsonde skew-T from around this time shows a boundary layer that is now no longer well mixed. The top half is weakly stable, with potential temperature increasing gradually with height, and water vapor mixing ratio decreases with height. The inversion is weaker and located at higher altitude than in the previous skew-T. This one is indicative of a trade cumulus boundary layer, and again consistent with the photos.
Skew-T plot from a dropsonde launched from near where the just above images were taken.
A 5-minute reflectivity "curtain" from the cloud radar shows a few of these trade cumuli as the plane passed over them. You can see that they top out a little above 5000 feet, or around 1.5 km, which is a little above the inversion in the skew-T above.
As we went further north, and passed over still warmer SST, we started to see a few cumulus congestus - isolated deep convective clouds - forming to the north. Here's a photo of one of them, below. The sun was getting higher in the sky, and my phone's camera was not so good at coping with that so it looks a little overexposed, but you can see the cloud sticking up a lot higher than its neighbors, right in the middle of the image.
Photo taken from the NCAR GV at 9:14 local time (1542 UTC) on August 12, 2019. Position 6.4N, 87.4W, looking north).
Below is a skew-T from a dropsonde that, as best as I can figure, was launched near to the cloud in the above image. (When I took that photo we were at 6.4N; the next west-east leg was at 7.5N, and that's where the below sonde was dropped. I'm not great at estimating distances from the plane but around 1 degree, or 110 km, seems like a plausible guess for how far away that cloud was. Could have been less. Anyway, it was a bit to the north, over warmer SST.)  The inversion is gone, and the atmosphere is pretty humid -- though not saturated -- up to about the freezing level, which is typically as high as one expects congestus to get.
Skew-T from dropsonde launched somewhere in the vicinity of the congestus cloud shown in the image just above.
By the time the plane got to around that latitude, 7.5N, the radar was seeing little showery cumuli below us that were deeper than the ones down at 5.5N. Not as deep as the congestus I shot in the photo above, but that was an isolated cloud and we'd have to have been lucky to fly right over it.

As we got to still higher latitude (8.7N), we got into real organized deep convection. I don't have good photos from this time. The funny thing is that although the deep convection is what we really came to see, one typically doesn't get good pictures when one is in it, or anywhere near it, as the outflow just makes everything grey and one can't see very far. But here is a radar reflectivity curtain beginning at 8.7N, 86.6W and continuing east. You can see that there was a lot of much deeper cloud. Some of the echo reaches the ground, indicating light rain. Where there is no echo at the ground, it was probably actually raining harder; the cloud radar can't see very far through rain, so it gets attenuated and just doesn't see down there, and the high reflectivity values with a sharp cutoff to black below are indicative of that.

Reflectivity curtain from the HIAPER Cloud Radar beginning at 10:25 local time (1625 UTC) on August 12, 2019. Plane location at start of curtain 8.7N, 86.6W.

Here's a combined visual and infrared satellite image showing the plane position at the at time. Now we're flying into real deep convection that is organized on the mesoscale - that is, the angry red blob, indicating thick, high, cold cloud tops, with lightning flashes shown by the purple crosses. The large horizontal extent indicates that the strong convective updrafts have generated a large stratiform anvil - not to be confused with the stratocumulus we saw at the start! "Strat" means "layer" and both cover large areas, but the stratiform anvil is thick and high and rainy, while the stratocumulus at lower latitude were thin and low and produced little rain.
Combined visual and infrared satellite image showing NCAR GV position at 10:25 local time (1625 UTC). Purple crosses are lightning flashes.

Skew-T from dropsonde launched at 1629 UTC on August 12, 2019.
To finish, let's look at the big picture. Here's a visible image from during the flight that includes the box bounded by the equator and 10N and 80W and 90W. If you read everything above closely, and stare at this image long enough, you can see the cloud changes I've been describing. I'm going to be using this example in my classes for years to come!

PS: In the meantime, over the last few days we have had a developing easterly wave offshore to the northwest, and both the GV and the NOAA P-3 flying repeatedly to watch as it slowly makes its way towards being a tropical cyclone. There will surely be posts about that before long...

Friday, August 16, 2019

Being a Weather Observer

Sunday night, I was woken by lightning flashes to our south, illuminating the silhouettes of far off mountains and dissipating through clouds across a quarter of the sky. They were the manifestation of easterly waves, regions of low atmospheric pressure moving through the tropics. Since Costa Rica’s location near the equator prevents the formation of fronts like those that bring changes in the weather in the United States (the Coriolis effect is too weak at this latitude), easterly waves are one of the special features of this region that have brought us here. Although their relationship with thunderstorms was evident just by looking out my window, the exact connection is an area of active research and one of the primary objectives of the OTREC project.

The following morning brought a more quantitative perspective to the problem, as the Gulfstream-V jet sent back data in real time about conditions in the atmosphere to the southwest. Its course brought it into contact with some of the same storms I saw overnight. Our headquarters’ location on the northwest coast of Costa Rica means the two patterns the plane flies roughly bookend our position, allowing the onboard scientists to sometimes catch a glimpse of weather some time before it reaches those of us on the ground, then watch it move off into the east. Ground-based RADAR and satellite images might provide a similar perspective, but the pictures on this blog attest to the tangible connection to weather that only the plane provides. One doesn’t need to be an expert in dropsondes or plane-based RADAR to see the difference between watching the world from only 3 miles up versus more than 22,000 (about the altitude of a geostationary weather satellite).

As a first year graduate student, seeing these types of systems up close is an incredible opportunity for me to make the connection between the data that climate models produce and the real world. I’ve worked with satellite rainfall data and studied weather over the ocean from the comfort of an office, but I never could have pictured the scale of a fully-developed cumulonimbus or the drama of a convective storm backlit by the Pacific sunset, washed with shades of red and pink punctuated with all-consuming lightning flashes. It will be hard to forget those images when I get back to my desk.

A National Hurricane Center (NOAA) weather map from early in the morning on August 12. Though it displays a lot of information at once, the main point is that fronts (curving blue and red lines) are notably absent in the tropics, and in their place are easterly waves (marked here with short black lines labeled "TRPCL WAVE"). 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

From Behind a Laptop to Above the Clouds

I thought I’d follow-up on Melanie’s great post about the benefits of field campaigns and the motivation for undertaking them (in particular for graduate students and young scientists). I’m a fifth-year grad student myself, and OTREC is only my second field campaign. Like Melanie, OTREC is fairly far from the type of science I do in my day-to-day (usually working at a laptop with numerical models of the tropics). Still, I’m not just participating in OTREC to go to the beach (don’t get me wrong, I will go to the beach): there are benefits field campaigns have for graduate students, and also ways we can contribute.

It goes without saying that many students involved in atmospheric science love the environment, and for many the natural world served as our first inspiration drawing us into this work. But it can be perilously easy, especially in a grad student office on a laptop, to lose sight of (literally) the real atmosphere. At times, this can make research seem somewhat removed from the real-world questions it seeks to understand. In that regard, field campaigns give your work a more immediate application and sense of purpose. They serve as invigorating reminders of what we study and care about; it’s a wholly different experience to wake up every morning in 80% relative humidity than it is to learn in a (hopefully) air-conditioned classroom that the tropics are humid: for graduate students in particular, field campaigns can infuse your work with new meaning and context. 

Field campaigns also bring people together. In our field, like in many, researchers are specialized and there are natural divisions, between modelers and observationalists, oceanographers and atmospheric scientists, and so on. These aren’t always contentious divisions, but they do mean there’s sometimes cross-talk, or worst of all no talk, between different groups. Field campaigns break down those walls and providing a setting for conversations and teaching moments that are crucial in particular for students and young scientists. They help shape us into better scientists at a formative point in our careers, expose us to new ideas, and provide us with resources and technical skills, all while we’re still trying to decide where our own career interests lie.

My advisor, Adam Sobel, and me on a previous field campaign, PISTON, aboard the RV Thomas Thompson in the West Pacific

Finally, field campaigns need many people to truly succeed. In that regard, having motivated students in the field who care deeply and are inspired by the work helps the whole process, even if the day-to-day work is less than glamorous. I fully expect to spend at least part of my time at OTREC waking up in the middle of the night to hold a weather balloon while it fills up with helium. But doing that, and doing it carefully and consistently with as much enthusiasm as one can muster in the middle of the night, serves a much greater purpose. It’s a small way to make sure that every scrap of data is of the best possible quality, and ultimately contributes to the broader and more sweeping scientific endeavor we’re all contributing to during OTREC.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

So much depends on the weather

"And I feel so much depends on the weather...."

Students and NCAR teams witnessed this view last night, at dinner time. Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica after a successful 3rd flight

        It was any weekday morning in San José, Costa Rica. I woke up at 4 am, which was an unusually early time, even for the busiest of weekdays. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters were landing at the Juan Santamaría Airport in Alajuela. As a recently graduated BS in meteorology, I could not afford the $30 cab ride from my place in Sabanilla de Montes de Oca (next to the UCR campus). That meant I had to take several buses and, potentially, walk a lot if I wanted to get on time for the "open house", and speak with my childhood heroes at 10 am.

The C-130 and I, March 2012. Juan Santamaría Airport, Costa Rica

       There it was, the C-130 and its crew, already talking to the public and answering questions. My hands we shaky, maybe a bit sweaty. Oh boy, the Hurricane Hunters! What was the reason for so much excitement? A flashback would transport me back to a regular school day in my hometown Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Late in November of 1998, it might have seemed like any other day at my 6th-grade hall room. Our very first day class in at least 3 weeks very much indicated it was not a regular day. The spookiest Halloween of my country's history took us all by surprise, as CAT5 Hurricane Mitch crossed the country on a strange N-S path from the Gulf of Honduras, and then NW right before it would have exited to the Eastern Pacific. Such a trajectory was a huge mystery, not only for this "regular Jose", but even to experienced meteorologists. Hurricane Hunter Rob Rogers said a few words on TV for the Weather Channel, which were broadcast in all local TV stations. I started to wonder about many things related to the weather:
"Why did Hurricane Mitch have such an unusual path, especially after landfall?"
"What is a hurricane and why do they form only in tropical oceans?"
I made up my mind! I wanted to be a meteorologist, and fly into storms to study them.  End of flashback.

View of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. October 31, 1998 shortly after landfall of Hurricane Mitch. Credits: AP

      "What should I do  to become one of you? ", I asked the crew, almost regretting to be phrase the question in such a way, but too late to change my mind. The reply I got would slightly disappoint me.
"You have to be in the US military". Maybe it was a quick response, given to any stranger especially during a Q&A session. "Well, then", I said to myself. "Maybe I will not fly in one of these any time soon. Maybe I should be on the ground, helping those who fly. Maybe I should focus on the science. Maybe..."

        It was a not so typical morning, now in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. One of many weather briefings before a flight, during the NASA CPEX campaign, was about to start. I was part of New Mexico Tech's science team, listening to the briefing in the same room as the rest of the CPEX team: the JPL guys, the pilots, but also three other visitors from NOAA. Two of them, whom I would have immediately recognized ten years before, were unfamiliar to me then. It was until before take-off that I said, "Hi, I'm Jose." "Hi, I'm Rob Rogers", I heard back. Oh boy! I of course asked to take a picture with him and the DC-8 after we landed. However, I got more than just a photo. He told me that there were others, beside the C-130 team, who fly into tropical systems in a different aircraft, the P-3.

Rob Rogers, the DC-8, and I. Credits: Dave Raymond

        Few days after my first OTREC flight, several other historical numbers dance around in my head: 21 years have passed since an extreme weather event marked the path I would choose for my life; 2 years have passed since my first atmospheric research campaign. I've accumulated many "science miles" in between CPEX and OTREC.  In a similar way to how CPEX was the setup for an unexpected meeting with childhood heroes, OTREC now brings me back to my academic origins. Costa Rica was my home for 7 years, and it was also the place I met my current advisor, Dr Dave Raymond, one of the PIs for OTREC. In the words of Scott Weiland, one of my favorite late musicians, "and I feel so much depends on the weather, so is it raining in your bedroom?" in a nutshell wraps up this blog post, and in some way, the past two decades of my life.

Next to the NCAR Gulfstream-V aircraft, before taking off for OTREC mission flight RF01

From the Cockpit

Flying research missions requires a lot of skill, stamina, and the ability to adapt quickly to unusual weather conditions. Our two pilots, Bo LeMay and Lee Baker, are doing a fantastic job maneuvering the Gulfstream-V through OTREC's three flight boxes, allowing the scientists to deploy dropsondes and take the radar measurements that will help understand what controls deep convection and rainfall in the tropical east Pacific and the southwest Caribbean.

Right after the second research flight, Bo LeMay took a few minutes to talk to me about how he became a research pilot, and about his favorite place to fly (it's not the tropics!).

In the cockpit of the G-V: Bo LeMay (left) and Lee Baker

Monday, August 12, 2019

OTREC-Nuquí team: Education and Outreach activities!

On Aug 8th and 9th, the OTREC-Nuquí team visited the only school in Nuquí for our education and outreach activities.  The school is called Institución Educativa Ecoturistica Litoral Pacifico, Nuqui – Choco, Colombia, which holds classes for both elementary and high school students.  First, we asked the school’s principal for permission to show the students what OTREC was and the various elements that brought us to Nuquí.  The principal loved it so much that suggested to present the activity to the whole school, from preschool to 11th grade.  However, there was only one room in the school with audio visual aids, limiting the presentation to one grade at the time.  The visual aids room was hot and humid, but half a dozen fans hanging in the wall kept the room somehow fresh.  Since our time was somehow limited, we only presented OTREC to 4-7 graders.

We introduced ourselves to the kids, described OTREC and its objectives, and highlighted the broad impact to the local community and the region. We followed our talk by showing the global rainfall map (i.e., according to TRMM), which highlights the Nuquí area as one of the rainiest spots on Earth.  We anticipated that communicating with such young audience --and keeping their attention-- was going to be challenging.  Hence, we used plain language and made colorful-cartoonish slides.  Additionally, we made the presentation rather informal and kept asked the kids many basic trivia questions about rainfall, including its temporal variability --seasonality, diurnal cycle--, how rainfall forms, where lightning comes from, and how rainfall (or lack thereof) affects them.  To our surprise, students were very engaged and their knowledge about their environment was rich.  After all, they live in one of the rainiest spots on earth.

We invited students to visit our launching site. The idea was to show them the process of inflating the balloon, the pieces of equipment necessary to perform upper-air observations, and observation readouts and plots.  We were very pleased to have many kids showing up.  Kids were amazed when they saw the balloon inflation process. And after some safety tips were given, a couple of them got their chance to launch a sounding.  Of note is that such exposure to the launching site just made them more curious.  Now, kids were full of questions and eager to learn.   The most common questions included:  were the balloon and sounding eventually be recovered? How high does the balloon go? What happens if it goes into a cloud or rain?

Despite our relatively poor skills to communicate with kids, it was a fulfilling education and outreach experience.

OTREC joins the hunt for a hurricane!

On Sunday August 18, 2019, I had the exciting opportunity to participate in my first ever research flight.  Me, with the NOAA P-3 in t...