A global pandemic could not stop the International Arctic Buoy Program from deploying drifting weather buoys into the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Utqiaġvik, Alaska during these past few months. With the collaborative effort of many partners, buoys were designed, fabricated, shipped, and deployed out on the sea ice before the ice broke away from Utqiaġvik for the summer.
My role in this was facilitating the online learning meetings of the Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program along with the expertise and leadership of Lieutenant Commander John Woods of the Office of Naval Research, Reserve Component, Dr. Ignatius Rigor of the Polar Science Center at University of Washington, and Cy Keener an Assistant Professor of Sculpture + Emerging Technology at the University of Maryland. Together this team guided the Sea Cadets in the process of learning, designing, and engineering the development of new drifting buoys.
2020 was the first year for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps to partner with the International Arctic Buoy Program to get 16 and 17 year old Sea Cadets engaged in STEM learning in the Arctic. A group of nearly 20 highly qualified Sea Cadets were selected for the first Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program. The primary task of the Sea Cadets was to design and build the environmental sensors that measure weather data, and also design the hull, or buoy, that holds and protects the sensors while out in the elements of the Arctic. They worked remotely from across the country in small teams of 3-4 to accomplish their mission. If we had traveled to the Arctic, two of the Sea Cadets would have accompanied the science team to the Arctic to deploy their buoys in April.
Since early May completing the mission of getting the Sea Cadet's buoys to Utqiaġvik to be deployed by our local collaborators and then watching the data come in has been fun to watch. The drifting buoys were completed, created, and shipped from all over the country to Dr. Rigor in Seattle and then on to Anchorage where they were then taken way north to Utqiaġvik. You can see this travel path on the IABP data map. Experienced Field Specialists (Wilbur Leavitt, Jerry Brower, and Harvard Brown) from the UIC Science in Utqiaġvik took the buoys out on the sea ice via snowmobile and made sure they were turned on and ready to send data through satellite signals.
In this post, enjoy exploring the live data portals, map data visualizations, and the photos from the deployments on the ice.
At the time of deployment, there was a large mass of land-fast ice pushed up against the shore near Utqiaġvik. Quickly after they were deployed, the ice began to come apart and drift out to sea (breakup) along with some of the buoys. As of June 4th, Sea Cadet teams buoys Ice-Pelican-004 and APL-IT-0007 were on the move. Arctic Byrds and Wolverines (team buoys) may have started to move early on the 5th. This was and still is a super exciting time where each buoy's fate is unknown. Some buoys could stay lodged on large pieces of ice and travel for weeks or months. Other buoys could end up in open water and flow with the currents. Buoys can also be crushed and become unresponsive as the wind shifts and the ice heads back to shore.
With a bit of detective sleuthing, you can try to follow the fate of your buoy by monitoring the IABP website, and check out realtime daily satellite imagery through NASA's EOSDIS Worldview. You can fast forward and reverse the time of the image with the arrows on the bottom left to see the ice move around. You can also see the latitude/longitude location for anywhere you hover your cursor.
We are watching the movement and also the data reports to help us understand where they are and the weather and ice/ocean conditions of that location. You can watch the external temperature sensor values on the IABP site to see if they increase during the day and decrease at night (meaning they are probably on ice), or stay constant just below 0 degrees C, meaning they are probably in the ocean.
2020 Plankowner - Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program To Continue in 2021
First things first, please click on 'Subscribe to Journals by Email' on my official PolarTREC virtual basecamp page. I will be primarily posting there moving forward. Thank you!
Tomorrow, if everything was going as it was only 3 weeks ago, I would be embarking on an adventure of a lifetime with a science expedition team to place real-time weather buoys on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. We would be making it possible for satellites to transmit observation data through the atmosphere at incredibly high speeds to then tell a master computer what the current conditions of the Arctic Ocean are every few minutes. These observations of the natural world, in such a far remote locations, are critical to crafting weather forecasts, informing marine ship captains, understanding climate change, and helping native people who live within the Arctic Circle with daily weather forecasts that ultimately influence their livelihoods of whaling and living on and from the sea.
Instead, I'm working to submit this week's natural world observation data here from my neighborhood through a citizen science observation program, NASA's Globe Observer app. Also, in light of the April expedition not happening, a couple weeks ago I took on the weekly maintenance and operation of the IMPROVE air quality monitoring station on top of Aspen Mountain in. IMPROVE stands for Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments. And with Colorado's Stay-at-Home public health order, I can still do all this important science. Science is essential! I'd like to tell you a bit about each of the projects.
Sitting on the porch after the first morning of our virtual orientation I had a new profound sense of how just how blessed I am to be selected to be part of the PolarTREC professional community. I walked away from my computer out on the front porch to get some sun and the realization of ‘I’ve made it’, ‘I’m in the respectable ranks’, ‘this is a big deal’, ‘this is the real deal’ all started to sink in. I get to lean back into my science background and practice not only thinking like a scientist, but also doing science more than I have in years. I get to communicate critically important weather forecasting science to a broad expansive audience. I am part of a science team with the top leaders of the Office of Naval Research and the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center. I am highly valued and important to the success of the International Arctic Buoy Programmes’ 2020 mission and most likely into the future.
As expected, the National Science Foundation, PolarTREC, and The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) have officially canceled my participation in the April Arctic science expedition. The Office of Naval Research and University of Washington Polar Science Center are not behind in officially cancelling too.
Hoping that the midsummer Greenland Arctic Circle trip will happen.... yet who knows.
In the meantime, laying low trying not to become part of the problem as an unintentional vector of covid-19. Just moved everything I need for a couple months out of my office and am now set up at home. Thankfully my house has a sunny south facing porch that is blocked from the wind - it may become my favorite new office space.
And for some much needed levity (in case you haven't already seen this on my social media channels) -
I've been googling Covid-19 too much and sometimes I accidentally type in Corvid as well and have seen so many pics of really cool birds. Thought I would share some of these really cool Corvids. Here are only 16 of the 120 corvid species around the world.
Stay connected to those you love and care about, I think the psychological effects of this pandemic is already causing intense emotional exhaustion for everyone on some level. Love your people - even if it's just through phone calls and video chats. I'm definitely feeling it myself.
In it for the long haul, until next time,
Be flexible with lost luggage, getting sick, delayed flights, missed trains, date changes, weather... I didn’t expect an international viral outbreak to be on that list. Yet, I must remain flexible. I'm trying to get used to the uncertainty of the daily (sometimes hourly) decision making required of all of us right now.
So, the current status of going to the Arctic is uncertain and I'm remaining on standby. My participation in PolarTREC is directly connected to National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funding. And currently the NSF is recommending that grant awardees not travel domestically or internationally, if possible.
Also, I'm thinking about what it means for a group of scientists from the lower 48 states to potentially serve as a vector for COVID-19 and bring the virus to remote communities in Alaska. This feels a bit irresponsible. Another thought is considering the risk and or access to health facilities in rural Alaska should someone on our team get sick.
I have learned that student travel has been restricted by the bigger school districts in Alaska (Anchorage, Kenai, and Matsu). Our primary investigator's (lead scientist) institution, the University of Washington in Seattle has shut down and gone to virtual classrooms. Our other primary investigator from the Office of Naval Research Reserve Component (ONR-RC) has cancelled all OCONUS (outside contiguous United States, which includes Alaska) travel for March 2020.
This is an elective opportunity of learning and adventure for me. I am not essential to this science team, nor the data collection in terms of the priority of my participation. Yet, I'm having to work hard at being okay with the situation as it is incredibly disappointing. There is a chance that I may still get to join the International Arctic Buoy Programme on a mid-summer Greenland and Canada Arctic Circle buoy deployment mission; the funding for that trip has been up in the air for a few months so I am waiting in the wings to see what happens.
Until next time...
Only 23 days until I fly to Alaska! The logistics of the next few weeks are beginning to become real, and some might say overwhelming.
Not only am I considering all the logistics of packing, attending a week long orientation in Boulder March 15-20, and then participating in an Arctic science expedition; I'm also in full swing of running my own business Wild Rose Education, designing a new fall course syllabus for Colorado Mountain College SUS-440 Watershed Science and Land Use Impacts, finalizing the logistics for five graduate level educator classes this summer, presenting at three conferences between now and the end of April, making sure I've got taxes and bills paid, and looking for new housing here in my community. Yet, I'm confident it will all happen and turn out quite well. Thankfully I'm really good at planning and paying attention to details. And hopefully I can prove to be incredibly flexible. As with any expedition, things change at any given moment and one has to be ready to flex, and also try to be okay with the new situation.
One phenomenon I'm really hoping to experience are the northern lights or aurora borealis. It will be my first time to experience them.
Thanks to the MOSAiC Expedition, I found these really neat website links:
I've been learning more and more about Arctic sea ice buoys and thought you too may be interested in learning alongside me. On our upcoming expedition in early April we will be deploying drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean that will be monitored through the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP). I've been exploring current buoy data to better understand where the buoys are located using the Observing System Monitoring Center (OSMC), an international data center as well as the IABP Daily Map. I'm not an expert yet by any means, but it has been super interesting digging into the data; especially because these data tools share the data spatially, on maps, and with .kml and .kmz files you can open on Google Earth and interact with.
So far, what I'm learning is that the data parameters are fairly simple and straightforward: air temperature, water temperature, air pressure, position and time of day. Yet it is the deployment to such remote locations that is rather complex. And I can imagine the process of sending the data points every 5 minutes through satellites to the international weather forecasting centers must be a bit complex.
While traveling to the Arctic with my expedition team April 1-11 and then again in the summer, I will be collecting land cover, tree, and cloud data for NASA's Globe Observer program. This is in addition to the International Arctic Buoy Program buoy deployment project. I would like to invite you to also collect land cover, tree, and cloud data.
NASA uses numerous satellites to constantly collect data on land cover, biomass (carbon), hydrological cycle, and more. They need people like you and me on the ground to verify their data by taking photos using a simple protocol through an app we can download to our smart phones. Our photos help scientists better understand what is really happening on the ground that the satellites may not be able to sense.
So, if you're up for it, please join me and many others around the world collecting Globe Observer data for NASA. Here's how.
A lead scientist for NASA's GLOBE Observer program reached out to me a few weeks ago to ask that I collect data from the Arctic when I go as they have so little data from the regions of Alaska where I'm going. When he found out we are also planning on teaching students in Whittier and Utqiagvik, we quickly made plans for me to create an hour long class for the students to learn how they can provide important data from their unique perspectives to help everyone better understand Earth's changing landscapes. I'm looking forward to be able to facilitate a learning opportunity that celebrates their long standing understanding and perspective of their home land and sea ice.
I do need to practice teaching this class; so please join me at a mini-workshop (details below). Also, I am in search of duplo bricks (large legos) to teach with and am guessing that some of you may have some old ones sitting around that no one plays with anymore. If so, please send them my way.