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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The quest for data in the face of wet and horrible weather

During the night the anticipated rain arrived. Believe it or not but it is far nicer up here when it is very cold than when the temperature creeps back above zero. Then the rain and the damp makes it feel that much colder; bizarre but true. At the moment the walk between the accommodation and the main building is getting treacherous. The top layer of snow has melted leaving a slick, icy sheen across the ground. It is not yet so bad that we need to consider driving the 30 metre walk but I have been here before when that was necessary. This morning I managed to gracefully skate across.

I started the experiment this morning working on the assumption that the bad weather might get pushed off by a region of high pressure. So far not so good. So we can rule out optics for tonight. Yesterday I took some very nice data with the radar and the cloud was patchy such that we should have some usable optics results. This is very nice as it provides both context and a method for estimating electron energy flux to compare against the radar derived results.

Why all this effort? Well I am trying to quantify additional energy input to the atmosphere via electron precipitation modulated by ultra-low frequency hydromagnetic waves in the magnetosphere. This is not easily done with a satellite since they pass through a region relatively quickly and although Cluster can help distinguish spatial features from temporal effects it can't be in the right place all the time. By using the ionospheric radar in conjunction with a ground array of magnetometers and an instrument known as an imaging riometer I can get a good estimate of the power input during the wave cycles across a range of local times. Through application of a little theory we can extract the electron energy flux that is due solely to the influence of the ULF wave and there you go. Of course, STFC is not interested in ground based data and now isn't interested in how the Sun affects the Earth (which used to be one of their 'big questions') except in terms of 'How does our climate work?'

Yesterday's carting of equipment around was fairly successful. We managed to move most of the bulky items out of the basement and back to the crate at the radar site. The next challenge is the stuff that we want to store in the hut; there is limited space and we know that not everything will fit. Tough decisions will have to be made.

1 comment:

Ryan Somma said...

As usual, I can only somewhat follow this, but I do appreciate you blogging about your science efforts. It's cool to see the hard work and sweat that goes into studying something so erudite.