Arriving in Northern Alaska in October and not seeing anything white was quite a shock. Having it stay that way for a week was even more amazing. But today we finally started to get a taste of winter, with slightly colder temperatures and snow! To be honest, the team couldn’t be happier to see it. One of the objectives we have for this trip is to get some solid measurements of clouds and snow, and today provided a good opportunity to do so. The winds were down this morning, and so we set out for the AMF ready to fly both the DataHawks and the tethered balloon.
In general, everything went well. We got two very solid DataHawk flights in this morning, each being around 45 minutes, profiling the lower atmosphere from around 20 to 200 meters altitude. There was continuous cloud cover and precipitation, making the visibility a bit tough, but we had no problems tracking the plane up through these altitudes. At the same time, the tethered balloon crew got the balloon flying, providing a platform for the VIPS and the turbulence probe to take to the Arctic skies. In total, the balloon was up for nearly eight hours!
During the afternoon, the winds picked up a bit and again got to be somewhat gusty. In combination with some heavier snow squalls, this limited the DataHawk operations for the rest of the day. I can’t say that I’m not a little disappointed – the forecast had the winds staying down most of the day, and the jump back up to 20-25 mph was not completely expected (though not surprising). We definitely went out and stood at the end of the runway considering a few extra flights, but the gusts were quite good at convincing us it just wasn’t to be. Fortunately, the expectation continues to be for an extended period of lower wind speeds next week.
Tomorrow, assuming the weather cooperates, we’re hoping to get some flights in in the morning before Steve has to head to the airport around midday. He heads back to Colorado, and will be replaced by Doug Weibel. Doug’s been to Oliktok several times now and knows this site really well. I feel a bit bad that we didn’t get more flight time for Steve while he was up here, but ultimately, there’s not much we can do about the weather. Doug is just coming off of a vacation – I hope he’s well rested because it looks like there is a lot of flying to be done.