31 January 2014

The End Has Come, But This Is Not The End

Me Wednesday afternoon up on the Tug Hill after digging out one of our instruments. The snow was 4 ft deep here with 6 inches of ice underneath.
(Photo courtesy Peter Veals)

Well, OWLeS is officially over as of this past Wednesday. Most of us have packed up and returned home following a grueling 6 weeks of field research. But I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it was worth it, and the data that were collected during the project are going to be analyzed for years to come by dozens of researchers and grad students. OWLeS was extremely successful in so many ways! The data were great, the snow storms were borderline epic at times, and just about every scientist involved got the kind of data he/she was looking for. 

All in all, we studied 24 lake-effect events in 43 days. Two of these events dumped 5+ feet of snow at some locations in just a few days. The King Air flew 21 flights, 7 of which I was on. More than 100 people participated from 8 universities, two National Weather Service offices, and one research center, including 15 main scientists and about 50 undergraduates. At least 75 different weather sensors and instruments were used, including 8 radars, 200 or more weather balloons were launched, thousands of snowflake photographs were taken, and countless snow measurements were made. 

Ultimately, it was a great project. As my advisor said, "fewer than 1 in 10 winters are this good for lake-effect systems". We picked the right year to do this study, and it certainly paid off. Here are a few other interesting quotes from some of the OWLeS scientists:

"I will say this has been, by far, the most challenging field campaign that I have been involved with."

"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we'd have a field season as active as this!"

"...what can only be described as an epic period of field data collection..."

I hope you have enjoyed following this blog as much as I have enjoyed updating it. I hope you've learned a bit about the King Air. I hope you've learned something about how scientific field projects are done. Perhaps most importantly, I hope you've gained a new appreciation for how fascinating science and, in this case lake-effect snow, can be. Otherwise, this is probably my last post in this blog. Thanks for following, and stay curious my friends!

P.S. If you are a Wyoming middle or high schooler who found this blog through the Science Posse, you might just see me at your school sometime this spring with the Posse if we come visit!

13 January 2014

More on the UW King Air

Sorry for the long delay between posts. It has been somewhat of a busy week for me and I've had a number of other "chores" to work on. Much has happened with OWLeS since I last posted. We had 5 research flights in 4 days into lake-effect storms last week alone, as many as we had all of December! There were even 2 flights in one day, during one of which I got the privilege of flying in the 2nd seat. That meant that I got to tell the pilot where and how high to fly. So needless to say, myself and everyone else here have been tired and exhausted - getting up at 4 AM several times during the week was not on my original list of "things to do" before I came to NY, but we make the best of it.

Today (Monday) was a down day, meaning we were not collecting any data...which makes sense given that there are no lake-effect storms going on at the moment in our area. For me, down days like this are usually spent getting other stuff done. This past week, I've been working on editing a paper that we are trying to get published in one of the atmospheric science journals. I've also been plotting data from each of our flights and putting them online so other people associated with OWLeS can see them. I'm also in one class this spring, which started today, so eventually I will have homework and readings to do for that. On top of all this, I still have my own master's degree research to finish up - I haven't been able to work on any of that since November!

But instead of doing lots of work today, I helped give King Air tours to the undergraduate students from some of the other colleges involved in OWLeS - Millersville University, SUNY-Oswego, and Hobart and William Smith. These tours were more in-depth than the open house that we had back in December. I decided it was a good time to snap a number of photos of the airplane that I've been meaning to get - ones showing more of the instruments so that I can tell you a little bit about what each instrument does.