Kirk Beckendorf, July 13, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
July 13, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 11:30 AM ET
Latitude- 42 56.92 N
Longitude- 70 36.22 W
Air Temperature 17 degrees C
Wind Direction at surface East
Wind Speed at surface 20 MPH
Cloud cover and type Cloudy- Stratus
Air Pressure
11:30 AM 1014 Millibars
7:15 PM 1009 MB
10:15 PM 1008 MB

Daily Log

Look at what the air pressure has done today. What do you think our weather is like now at 11:00 PM (past my bedtime)?

Keep in mind that we are sitting out in the ocean in a ship, sometimes you can see land, other times you can’t. Rarely can we see any buildings much less a city. How are we supposed to know where to go to find some pollution? Especially if we are looking for particles that are too small to see and gasses that are colorless. Not to mention there may be less than 1 part per billion of that gas mixed in with the air. That is where Wayne Angevine and Jim Koermer come in. They are two meteorologists who are on shore. Twice a day they send us weather forecasts. Wayne works for NOAA and Jim is a professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. (Check out Jim’s website at

Based on their forecast, Wayne also sends recommendations for where we should go to find pollution. Today they are predicting that winds will be from the southeast and east through at least tomorrow. We know that pollution comes from automobiles, power plants, ships and factories. Although some of the chemicals involved in air pollution do also come from trees and other plants. Pollution of course blows with the wind so we want to be down wind of the pollution sources. If you look at a map to see where we are located the only thing east of us for a very long way is water, so easterly winds bring us clean air. There aren’t any cities or automobiles floating out here on the ocean, but there are ships. Wayne’s recommendation today was for us to move to Mass. Bay to get down wind of the shipping lanes and sample ship exhaust as they come by. That is what we have been doing most of the day.

Wayne says that possibly tomorrow afternoon the winds will shift and come from the southwest. If that happens Boston’s pollution will be flowing out over the water again and if that happens he suggest we sample it as we did yesterday, which was to zigzag back and forth across the plume coming from Boston. We couldn’t actually see it but we know where Boston is, we knew which way the wind was blowing and many of the instruments are measuring and recording what is in the air in real time. The captain also has charts that show how deep the water is so we didn’t run aground as we got close to shore.

It has been very interesting switching rolls from my normal job of being the teacher to the roll I am in on the ship which is, being the student. This past year after a particularly hard lesson one of my students said my brain hurts; now I know how he felt. This afternoon I went down to the ship’s gym to try and digest all that I have been learning the past two weeks, by working out physically rather than mentally. Plus I had to work off some of the great food the stewards feed us here on the Brown.

With the drop in air pressure the winds have picked up, it has started raining lightly and the ship is rocking and rolling. Nothing extreme, but it should rock everyone to sleep tonight.

We had another abandon ship drill today.

This afternoon we saw a pirate ship. Well ok it really wasn’t a pirate ship but it kind of looks like one, with its sails down and floating in the mist. It is actually a Mexican Navy training ship.

Questions of the Day

Today we had a low pressure system, what kind of weather can we expect if we have a high pressure system?

What activities do you that would create air pollution?

From which way is the wind blowing today, where you live?

What is up wind of you? What is downwind of you?

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