Those who watched movies in the 80s might recognize the title as a catch phrase from the movie “Short Circuit”, the 1986 film about a robot struck by lightning who sets out to explore the world. In many ways, this is a fitting depiction of my 5th trip to Oliktok Point, which started today (you can read about trips one, two, three, and four by following the links). This time, I’m headed north to support two different unmanned aerial systems projects. The first of these is titled “Profiling at Oliktok Point to Enhance YOPP Experiments” or POPEYE. POPEYE has leveraged both unmanned aircraft and tethered balloon systems operated by the US Department of Energy, as well as a whole bunch of extra radiosondes, to provide additional observations of the lower Arctic atmosphere during a “special observing period” for the Year of Polar Prediction. The YOPP, as it’s referred to, is a huge international effort to improve our ability to forecast weather and climate at high latitudes. Such improvement is very much needed in order to understand some of the most rapidly changing parts of the planet and be able to support advancement of things like shipping there. These observations started in July, and go through the end of September. The second project I’m going up to support is the “Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic” project, or SODA. This effort is focused on what causes the upper Arctic ocean to be in the state that it is, which of course strongly impacts the formation of sea ice, among other things. This project is particularly exciting for me in that we are deploying a new instrument, developed under NOAA funding at the University of Colorado, called miniFlux. This sensor suite will be flown on an aircraft operated by the University of Alaska called SeaHunter through joint support from NOAA and the National Science Foundation, with flights extending between 22 September and 22 October. There you have it – robots going to explore the world we live in, just like the movie!
For the time being, I’m just working on getting up to Alaska. Tomorrow I have to go through some training on oilfield protocols in Anchorage. I, along with the rest of the team will be staying up in the Prudhoe Bay oilfield. If you’ve seen the other blogs above, you have seen the photos – there is a lot of infrastructure up there! Because of that, I’ll be spending a little over a day in Anchorage before going farther north. The flight up there is always a long one, but it provides a great chance to get a bunch of work done. This time I found the packing to be particularly difficult. It has been VERY hot in Colorado over the last few days, with daytime temperatures in the mid 90s. Thinking about packing for the Arctic seemed to be more than my brain could handle. Hopefully I didn’t forget anything important! Despite the fact that my end destination today was Anchorage, I refused to not travel in shorts. It was simply too hot in Boulder!
While I am starting the trip alone, we are dividing the effort to support the SODA flights between a team of five people. I will be up there together with Cory Dixon of the University of Colorado’s Integrated Remote and In-Situ Sensing (IRISS) campus grand challenge project for the first couple of weeks. IRISS were the central developers of the miniFlux vision, and Cory’s contributions to making a concept reality have been monumental. Then, right around the end of September, Chris Cox from CIRES will join me for a couple of days before I head back to Boulder. Chris will support the deployment on his own for about a week, before switching out with Janet Intrieri (NOAA) and Jackson Osborn (CIRES) for the last part of the campaign. This will be Jackson’s first field deployment, and he seems excited to go! I’m hoping that Chris and Jackson will be able to provide some updates on this blog after I head back home – we’ll see how things go! For now, things are just kicking off and I’m looking forward to getting through the training tomorrow!