Day One, ARM Mobile Facility One

Hitting the ground running, not literally thank goodness as it was hot and humid today in La Porte Texas. Landing last night I was greeted by very nice decaying storms to the east which were very photogenic from where I am staying in Kemah, a touristy suburb on Galveston / Trinity bay.

Storms seen from Kemah, Tx.

Today, my first full day in Houston as a mission scientist was all about spinning up on the weather situation and becoming operationally aware. It was also about getting boots on the ground at the deployment I am a co-investigator on, led by my friend and colleague, Mike Jensen from Brookhaven lab. As discussed in previous posts, this is the TRacking Aerosol Convection interactions ExpeRiment (TRACER). ARM does an amazing job of deploying world class instruments anywhere. This is their first deployment to Texas and, by far, their most urban.

Surrounded by chemical plans, shipping facilities and oil refineries (sources of those little particles that so impact the big clouds of our climate) ARM deploys its usual and very successful playbook. Get good people, build local connections, bring the community along.

Come on clouds! Get big!

For me, today was about: Lead as a mission scientist, understand the deployment and the clouds we are studying and capture the people and unique deployment in pictures and videos. The folks at the AMF (ARM Mobile Facility) greeted me with amazing warmth. Seeing I enjoyed being outside in the heat, safer during this time of COVID, they graciously set up a shelter for me. This also allowed me to use the amazing instruments, including the Scanning Cloud ARM Radar (SACR) as a background for the unavoidable (though I tried) for zoom calls during the day. Plus, of course, the all important forecast and operations call for TRACER.

Mark launching a balloon with a weather station on it to understand the air that fuels those big clouds.

And this pampered office working scientist was even helpful! Helping load a gas analyzer used to study the chemistry of those tiny particles) back into an instrument rack. So, take homes and lessons learned from today? This area of Houston has a heat born of the Gulf of Mexico. Any breeze is most most welcome when temperatures are in the high 90’s and dewpoints (a measure of moisture in the air, when dewpoint equals temperature humidity is at 100%) in the mid 70’s, the AMF is something globally unique, world class that the US Department of Energy can deploy a state of the art earth science observatory anywhere and then tear it down and deploy it anywhere else. No one else does this and I am proud to be a part of it.

So, today, Thanks to Bobby’s leadership, we decided tomorrow looks as good as it is going to get for the whole week for clouds that get big enough to rain which are our science target (the big clouds that are so affected by those little particles). Tomorrow the facility will enter special operations. The weather radar (like you see on your National Weather Service webpage, or by your favourite meteorologist like Tom Skilling in Chicago) will use special software to track storms and the ARM technicians like David, Matt and Mark will launch soundings (balloons with instruments) at an unprecedented rate. All in the hope of catching those tiny particles making those big clouds bigger (or smaller? Let’s see!).

Check out this video I put together of amazing time lapse videos and David launching a sounding.

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