Views from the cockpit

West of Boulder. Pilot: Lee Baker. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke.

West of Boulder, CO with Pilot Lee Baker. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.

Post by Frank Flocke, FRAPPÉ Principal Investigator

As mission scientist, I get to sit in what would be the Navigator Seat in a military C-130, but on Snowflake that station has been converted into a science station. It’s right behind the co-pilot’s seat and has a desk-mounted laptop, which is capable of displaying all the measurements made in the back in real time, run chat with the ground, and display aircraft position, location and movement of weather, and a number of other ground based measurements such as winds, ozone, and particulates.

Ridge near Dinosaur, NW Colorado, Pilots: Scotty McClain, Lee Baker. Flight Engineer: John Cusack

Ridge near Dinosaur, NW Colorado with pilots Scotty McClain and Lee Baker, and flight engineer John Cusack. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.

Whenever the scientific data and communications with the ground do not attract my full attention, the better view definitely is out front through the generous cockpit windows on the aircraft.

I make the flight plans for the C-130 and can talk to the pilots and together we can change the flight tracks slightly, depending on conditions (more about this in a later blog) but the short is that I always have a good idea where we are going and when the scenic parts of the flight come up. Below are a few pictures from our transects along the Continental Divide and other places around the beautiful State of Colorado.


Longs Peak, Black Lake ,and the Spearhead (Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park). Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.


Approaching a pass over Downtown Denver, with co-pilot Bo LeMay. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.

Flying by Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado with pilot Scotty McClain.

Flying by Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado with pilot Scotty McClain. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.

Descending into the Colorado River Valley near Rifle, CO, for a missed approach with pilot Scotty McClain.

Descending into the Colorado River Valley near Rifle, CO, for a missed approach with pilot Scotty McClain. Photo courtesy of Frank Flocke/FRAPPÉ PI.



Complementary Measurements

BAO, PISA, and NASA P-3B August 2, 2014.

BAO, PISA, and NASA P-3B August 2, 2014. Photo Courtesy of Andy Langford NOAA/ESRL/CSD.

This is a picture of the NASA P-3B as it is flying its spiral pattern over the Boulder Atmospheric Observatory’s (BAO) 300m tower near Erie, CO. Also in the picture is the PISA as it profiles the boundary -layer. The PISA is an instrument shelter designed to house various gas and aerosol sampling instruments riding the instrument carriage which is capable of profiling the boundary layer from the surface to 300m.


Photo Courtesy of Andy Langford NOAA/ESRL/CSD.

The BAO tower site is operated by NOAA ESRL. A wide variety of instruments and investigators from multiple national laboratories and universities will be based at this site. LIDAR instruments will provide measurements of ozone, aerosols and meteorological data. Ground-based instruments will provide measurements of volatile organic compounds, peroxyacetyl nitrates, sulfur dioxide and ozone production rates. In-situ instruments on the 300 m tower will provide vertical profiles of ozone, reactive nitrogen species, gas phase acids and oxygenated VOCs, ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, aerosol size distributions and extinction. In addition, the BAO will provide one base of operations for mobile laboratories that can make chemical and aerosol measurements across the Front Range domain. The overall goal of this effort is to understand sources, transport and chemical transformations of air pollutants, particularly those that lead to ground level ozone.

“Ozone gardens” in Boulder educate visitors on ozone pollution and its effects


Danica Lombardozzi and Kateryna Lapina at the University of Colorado – Boulder, Ozone Garden © Glen Asakawa/University of Colorado

How can you tell that the air you breathe is polluted, when you can’t see the pollution? The answer is planting the ozone-sensitive plants that develop a distinct injury on their leaves in response to ozone pollution. This summer, we (Danica Lombardozzi, NCAR, and Kateryna Lapina, University of Colorado Boulder) planted two ozone gardens to help raise awareness about the ground-level ozone problem in Boulder. The exhibits are located in front of NCAR’s Mesa Lab and at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, and both are free to visit. In addition to the respiratory problems it causes in humans, ozone causes a number of negative effects on plants, from reduced crop yield for major agricultural crops such as soybeans and wheat, to reduced amounts of carbon stored in aspen — effects that can be difficult to see. However, the special varietals of milkweed, snap bean, potato and coneflower plants in the ozone gardens were selected because they are “bioindicator” plants, meaning they develop distinct black or brown spots on their leaves when exposed to high levels of ozone for periods of time. The NCAR garden was planted in early June, and a couple of weeks ago Danica observed the first signs of ozone injury on snap beans. Ozone damage on cutleaf coneflower and La Chipper potato plants showed up this weekend. The CU garden was planted three weeks later and Kateryna just noticed some brown spots today that might be early stages of ozone injury. It can be difficult to tell ozone injury in early stages since it can look similar to insect damage. We’ll have to keep checking to see if the leaves develops more symptoms with time (typical of ozone damage), and then we can better tell if the symptoms are caused by ozone damage or something else. Ozone concentrations have been lower this summer than in previous years, and perhaps the injury on plants would have been observed earlier were this a more typical high-ozone summer. We are now waiting to see similar signs of ozone damage on other plants in the gardens.


The brown and yellow spots on the leaves show severe ozone damage on this snap bean plant. © Danica Lombardozzi

The first ozone measurements on the roof of NCAR building above the garden showed the ranges from approximately 30 to 100 ppbv (1-minute averages), and typically levels above 40 ppb are considered to be sufficient to induce negative ozone effects on plants. The CU garden is not equipped with monitor, but the SOARS student Brandt Scott took ozone measurements last week to see if the Broadway traffic may reduce ozone levels at the garden location due to reaction with fresh NOx emissions.

The ozone garden project has been a lot of fun for us. Starting the plants in the greenhouse, trips to the Rocky Mountain National Park to collect the native coneflower plant under a special permit, emailing back and forth with scientists and agencies who provided the seeds and advice, creating educational materials – this all kept us busy this summer! Our gardens have already received lots of coverage in media locally as well as nationwide, including a story on NPR. This definitely helped us to get the word out and we are already seeing a steady flow of visitors to the gardens. As the summer progresses we expect to see more ozone-caused injury on the plants and we hope this will help to educate the public on the importance of making our air cleaner.


The Ozone Garden at the NCAR Mesa Lab Visitor Center, showing visitors the effect that ozone has on plants throughout the season. © Danica Lombardozzi

Duct tape to the rescue!


Picture of Brad Pierce (NOAA) after cleaning the glass plate on top of the HSRL lidar (Photo by Andrew Wagner, SSEC)

Every day is different out here at the NOAA Boulder Atmospheric Observatory outside of Erie, CO. Yesterday Andy Wagner (UW-Madison) noticed that the sun shield for the High Spectral Resolution (HSRL) LIDAR was torn from strong wind gusts, so today we needed to fix it. Duct tape and some pieces of wood from Home Depot did the job nicely. While we had the sun shield off we also cleaned the glass covering the HSRL. It was pretty dusty. Guess those theory guys are good for something other than forecasting where the pollution is!



Picture of sun shield for UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) showing tears from strong wind gusts on Friday, July 25, 2014 (Photo by Andrew Wagner, SSEC)


Picture of the repaired HSRL sun shield (Photo by Andrew Wagner, SSEC)



Test flight #1

July 17, 2014, by Frank Flocke


Picture by Sam Hall

Snowflake (or November One Three Zero Alpha Romeo, as the flight controllers call the NCAR/NSF C-130 Research Aircraft) did great today. And so did all the instrument inside.

We had a very successful test flight today. All instruments performed very well, and we got a good fell for what we can do out there. Our flight plans are so different from what normal aircraft do (we fly at low altitude, we fly zig-zag patterns over interesting emission areas, such as downtown Denver, the Denver-Julesburg Basin, or the forested areas in the mountains) and as a result air traffic control (ATC) has to get used to us as well.

Everything went great and we look forward to the first science flight!



Almost There

7/15/2014 by Frank Flocke

FRAPPÉ is about to start.

Today is the EMI test on the aircraft, which means all instruments are installed and have passed the flight readiness inspection. This is the mechanical part of the inspection when aircraft technicians make sure everything is bolted down and secured and ready to withstand the rigors of long flights in the boundary layer.

The EMI test makes sure that none of the electrical systems and electronics of the instruments interfere with the aircraft systems needed for flight.

We are planning to have our first test flight on Thursday. This will be a 2-2 ½ hr long flight with all instruments turned on and measuring. We will fly what would be a typical segment of a research flight so scientists can put their instruments through most of the conditions expected during a real research flight and can determine what needs to be adjusted and changed so their instruments will perform at their best during the experiment. After a day on the ground we will fly a second, longer test flight on Friday after which all instruments should be adjusted perfectly and ready to go.

If all goes well, and the weather plays along, we hope to be able to fly our first research mission next week.