All Hands on Deck
Student research assistants pose for a group photo prior to preparing the aerostat, or tethered balloon, for the day's activities from the Huron ground site in Huron, Calif. They are part of the DISCOVER-AQ mission, a coordinated series of field campaigns over five years with the goal of improving the ability of satellites to consistently observe air quality in the lowest part of the atmosphere, where people live and breathe. The 2013 California campaign of the DISCOVER-AQ mission is taking place in the Central Valley of California from January 15 to early February 6, 2013 and involves two aircraft as well as six ground sites, all making simultaneous measurements of air quality and atmospheric conditions.
The student researchers are part of the Millersville Atmospheric Research and Aerostat Facility (MARAF) at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa. The MARAF is a mobile lab headed up by Principal Investigator Richard Clark.
Dr. Clark explains that when the aerostat is removed from its docking station in the Quonset hut, which the students erected upon arrival at Huron, it is “all hands on deck.” No matter the individual responsibilities of each student, they all participate in moving the balloon out of the hut and to the staging area, where they attach various instruments for conducting profiles of meteorological variables, trace gases and particulates to about 1,600 feet, or 500 meters.
While the Millersville team performs profiles continuously from about 8:30 in the morning to about 5:00 in the evening each day, three times a day they coordinate the profile sequence with the overpasses of the NASA P-3B aircraft. The aerostat links the aircraft measurements to the ground-based measurements.
In addition to their research, the Millersville group has engaged in considerable educational outreach to the local Huron schools. Sixth-graders from Huron Middle School and their teachers visited the site and received a tour of the facility, and launched a radiosonde, or weather balloon. The team is grateful for the warm welcome and friendly people of the city of Huron.
From left to right are Ricardo Uribe, Joseph O'Brien, Michael Charnick, Timothy Juliano, Richard Poremba, Christopher Prebish, Rebecca Pauly, Megan Buzanowicz, Michelle Serino, and Felicia Guarriello, and Gina Mazzuca. Not pictured are Dr. Clark and Dr. Deborah Stein-Zweers. Dr. Stein-Zweers is joining the team from KNMI in the Netherlands to test an NO2 probe on the balloon, and she is a Millersville Univ. graduate.