"This is allowing you to have much more local measurement, much closer to where the action is," Teixeira said.
'A deployment of opportunity'
But getting a seafaring lab to work on the waves without compromising measurements is a unique challenge. "We've had to adjust some of the baseline instrumentation," said Michael Ritsche, technical operations manager for AMF2, based at Argonne. He explained that scientists had to calibrate and adjust detectors to compensate for the boat's movements.
"A lot of sensors like to be straight, they like to be vertical," he said. To keep the hardware pointed the right way, researchers mounted some instruments on stabilized platforms while making software adjustments for others. The salty sea spray can degrade and corrode metals, which can wear out sensors, so technicians will have to keep a close eye on their performance.
Managing the logistics also required some ingenuity. Out on the high seas, if something breaks, it cannot be fixed until the Spirit returns to port, which is about every two weeks. In addition, the scientists have a narrow window of only two days to download their data and check their instruments while the ship loads up in Los Angeles.
"This is a cargo ship. We're just coming along for the ride," Ritsche said. "This is a deployment of opportunity. It moves back and forth whether we're on it or not."
Still, the arrangement offers some advantages. "For a fraction of the cost, we are able to do the same type of research you would be able to with an actual research vessel," said Nikki Hickmon, a meteorologist at Argonne.
Once the Spirit returns to port, researchers will have their first data batch. This mission's success could spur further sea-based climate studies to give scientists a better view into the planet's atmospheric future.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500