Tuesday, February 19, 2008
At the field site it is rather empty these days: There is a workshop an Amazonas Aerosols nearby, which was originally scheduled after the campaign, but since the campaign had to be shifted, it is now in the middle of the campaign. That means that many people have left to go to the workshop, and the field site is run by only six persons who take care also of foreign instruments.
While I look forward to arriving in a cold, winterly Germany, I hope that everything is still running well at the field site, and I can post further information here when news from the site reach me.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
We can now say the campaign has officially started. A true Brazilian start that is, with several waves of installations, numerous delays and the occasional drama created by an inopportune rainstorm. For the last seven days practically all the instruments that are supposed to be measuring are running and getting data. For most of us it seems as if we’ve been living at the site for a long time, even though we have only been here for a little more than a week. Our food is quiet monotonous, but still very good: we have pasta with garlic, rice, black beans, and some salad every day for lunch and dinner, only the meat part of the meal changes, well change means either chicken or meat. Also we have tried to keep our beer supply as constant as possible, with the temperatures and humidity we have, drinking 3 beers a day is a low count, and even the non drinkers have acquired a drinking habit. I have to say, the beer keeps the conversations flowing, everyone happy and keeps us away from thinking about the snakes (not trivial, considering the venomous one that apparently lives under the dining hall. With the large, hairy tarantula-like spider.) The sleeping part has gone amazingly well, we don’t have a big snorer that keeps everyone awake all night, and the heat is not as bad as I thought it was going to be, we even occasionally have cool mornings. It is a testament to our ability to adapt that people who were only a couple of weeks ago in the midst of
Our every day life has also begun to take a regular schedule: early in the morning the cook wakes us up turning the Brazilian radio on around 6, and don’t think this is a request, it is his schedule, we have just “adapted” to it… we then have our regular toast with eggs, coffee – with that constant hope for that occasional treat of sweetened fried dough to dip in the coffee. After breakfast, almost everyone goes up to the container to check that instruments ran smoothly throughout the night, get the data out for the last day, and go back to the cabin to begin a preliminary analysis. We sit in front of the computer as if we were back in our regular office until lunch is ready, and after lunch we either go back to the computer or to fix whatever problem the instrument might have, of course if it was fixed in the morning, the computer takes over.
(Editor’s note: This ‘typical office morning’ only holds true for those lucky enough to have functioning instruments. The rest of us spend hours trying to troubleshoot broken valves, find leaks and cobble together inlets from string and leftover tubing…) However, we can all agree that the “day breakers” are definitely more interesting than at our regular office: a 3 meter snake deciding to rest in the middle of the road, monkeys screaming (and the resulting futile, but daily attempts to find them with binoculars or cameras), rain showers so strong that a small river is carved through the road, or the little puppy (full name: Pegaleve Pirahna Anklebiter) from the cabin biting our ankles to get some attention. And even more interesting are our conversations at night: it is not common to have people from China, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Austria, Mexico, Spain, Israel, Sweden, the US, England, and India sitting at the same table expressing their ideas. Particularly when there’s no internet or television to distract from conversation. I think we have successfully figured out how the settle all diplomacy issues in the Middle East – not to mention global climate change and
I believe most of us are very happy with our daily routines, and not having internet access has somehow made everyone more relaxed. The perfect example of the low-key attitude around here was two nights ago, when the lights went out in the lodge after dinner. Not a single person got flustered – there was a calm, slow move to acquire flashlights. The only concern was over the instruments, and an initial search party was sent up to the container. But all was well, and the power-sucking culprit in the lodge appears to have been the hot water heater in the shower. And, really, who needs a hot shower in the middle of the Amazonian jungle, anyways?
Michel and Delphine
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Johannes explained what are we doing in the rain forest and what do we want to measure, now I’ll explain how do we get the particles we want to measure, we need to collect the particles some how if not all the fancy instruments we have are useless, here is where the high towers you’ve seen in other pictures come into play. Why don’t we just collect the particles at ground level? Because we will not be measuring the particles we want to measure. We will be collecting dust from our shoes, the cigarette smoke from our fellow friends taking a break, or the particles from the only car that passes by once a day to bring people to the site, so as you can imagine our samples will be contaminated, the data will be useless. We want the particles from the rain forest, so to collect them with the least amount of “foreign particles” we take them 10 meters and 40 meters above the ground. However, we cannot just put a hose, tie it to the tower and measure, remember we want to measure the aerosols not the water vapor in the air. If you’ve been to the rain forest you can remember it is very humid, we need to get rid of all the water vapor in the air. To do these we literally dry the particles before they go into the instruments by making them pass through “marbles” made out of very absorbing material. We also need to heat up the tubes. In a hot sunny day the temperature on top of the trees is higher than at the ground, so the pumps from the instruments will be sucking hot humid air from the top and as the temperature decreases on the way down water droplets will form, and we don’t want water, besides sticking to the tubes and not letting all the particles go through it will ruin the pumps from the instruments.
In summary, we collect particles by sucking air from 10 or 40 meters above the ground making them go through a heated tube, then we dry them and finally they get distributed to the different instruments.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Before we leave to the field station and you won't read anything new on this site for a few days , I briefly want to explain the motivation for such a project:
It is all about climate change and understanding climate, as well as understanding cloud formation and precipitation, and the connection between these.
A lot of research has been done in other places of the world, especially in the
What are aerosol particles: Aerosol particles are tiny droplets or solid particles in the atmosphere, with diameters in the size range between roughly 10 nanometers (0.00000001 m) and 10 µm (0.00001 m). Why are they so important? Besides their health effect (in polluted areas) and their radiative effect (the so-called "direct aerosol effect" on climate), they are a prerequisite for cloud formation. Without aerosol particles, no cloud would form, because water vapor needs a very high supersaturation to condense in pure air. The condensation on a pre-existing aerosol particle is highly preferred. These aerosol particles are then called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). A special subset are the ice-forming aerosol particles, the ice nuclei (IN). Ice in the Amazonian rain forest? Yes, if you go up in the atmosphere, temperature decreases, and in an altitude of about 4 km you reach 0°C, and higher above, the temperature can reach values of down -70°C in the tropics, at altitudes of about 16 km. Convective cumulus clouds can transport the air and the aerosol particles from ground level to high altitudes in a few hours, thereby causing the heavy thunderstorms associated with heavy rainfall.
The ability of an aerosol particle to act as a CCN or as IN depends on parameters like size and chemical composition. Our goal is to measure these properties here in the pristine rain forest, in order to understand the mechanisms of cloud formation over the rain forest, and possibly this allows other scientists to extrapolate these findings to higher temperatures that are expected when climate change continues (and it will).
It could have not been a better decision. While I was releasing all of my anger walking through the jungle and going up a 60 meter tower, good things were happening at the customs: it seems the customs agent was in a good mood and told Johannes and Scot that if the MPI sent Johannes an email authorizing him to sign to make the document “official” and that as soon the real document got to Manaus they delivered to him, the instruments could be released. We could not believe it, a customs agent being reasonable and nice. We of course celebrated and indeed this morning at 8:30 the truck with our instruments arrived at INPA.
Tomorrow, February 1st, we are leaving for the site; hence, I’ll be disconnected for the next week, minimum. I would like to stay at the site for two weeks straight, but we’ll see. Finally some measurements and the work we came here to do, I don’t think we’ve ever been so exited to go and work.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Now, Southeast of Manus the
Next stop: giant water lilies. There an alligator came out to say hi to all of us. After this stop it was about 12:30 and we all thought we were going to have lunch, but our guide decided to take us up stream the
The bigger boat that brought us to there came to pick us up from our fishing canoe, and thankfully they allow us to jump off the boat and take a dip in the
Finally, the trip back to
Friday, January 25, 2008
First something on the current status of everything. Our instrument is still in customs BUT, and thats the good news, we were told it's pretty likely that it will be released today (Friday) which means it might be released Monday ;-) So we are quite confident to start setting up at the field site by the middle of next week.
Right now everybody is dealing with his daily buisness, as far its possible via internet and email, we got our police registration done, we still need to get this and that equipment, so we are keeping ourselves busy.
After having our first group meeting last night, we decided to follow the advice of the locals and head out for "pre-karneval" at a bar close to the hotel. Pre-karneval basically is a band contest to decide on which band will be allowed to play during the real karneval next week.
Since we were sent to a bar, we expected some decent party, but what we found was a whole street totally crowded with people. Mobile bars all over the place, and music probably loud enough to keep the whole block up all night long.
Since everyone needed to get up more or less early the next morning we just stayed a couple of beers or caipirinhas long, but it was definetly worth the experience and I guess we can all highly recommend karneval for those who will be here next week ;-)