Kevin McMahon, July 30, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
July 30, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 37.86 N
Lon. 70 deg 12.37 W
Speed 8.6 kts
Barometer 1018.96 mb
Rel Humidity 93.16%
Temp. 18.9 C

The seas are calm. The skies have a distant haze. The New England atmosphere so common at this time of year. As is usual for the day, at 0700 we sent aloft a radiosonde, and then at 1000 an ozonesonde.

I was lucky enough to see a couple of finback whales; but unfortunately I had left my camera on my bunk, before beginning a discussion with Drew Hamilton about alternative power generation. Many of the scientists lead very diverse lives. Drew has a house in Seattle and wants to get off the electrical grid. He has worked for NOAA for 25 years and has seen much of the world. Thirty years ago he started out at the University of Miami, never in a thousand years dreaming he’d be involved in the kind of research he’s doing.

Ever hear of di-methyl sulfide DMS? As chemistry teacher I’d heard the name but never understood its significance to the atmospheric work the scientist aboard the ship are undertaking. It turns out that di-methyl sulfide is produced by plankton and is part of a planktons waste process. DMS is one of the major contributors of atmospheric sulfur. Overly high levels in the atmosphere can act as a reflective unit not allowing enough sunlight through our atmosphere. As a result, in certain areas the Earth does not receive the needed heat for some of the biological processes to take place.

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 43 deg 17.84 N
Lon. 69 deg 33.83 W
Speed 9.3 kts
Barometer 1018.3 mb
Rel Humidity 86.16%
Temp. 20.65 C

1530 hours and there seems to be a flurry of activity among many of the scientist. A radiosonde is being rapidly readied to be sent aloft. It seems that the ship has reached a position somewhat east of Portland, ME and we have found a plume of ozone. The initial spike on the instrumentation showed 80-85 ppb (parts per billion) but then it jumped again to 101 ppb. This spike in the ozone was enough to request that another ozonesonde be readied and sent aloft. They have also requested a fly over by the DC3 out of Pease. Onboard the DC3 is a LIDAR (Light Radar) which measures atmospheric ozone. I am told that the cost of one ozonesonde is approximately one thousand dollars, so I assume that the readings on the instrumentation are justifying the expense. It will be interesting to see what they all have to say at the evening science meeting which is held each evening at 1930 hours.

We seemed to have found a large plume of ozone. It is as everyone, the science staff at least, had assumed. We have indeed found a large plume of ozone.

1930 hours. We are now heading in a westerly direction for Cape Elizabeth, ME.

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