Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday - takin' it easy

Ha ha = see previous post! We had an "enforced" down day!

Luckily, we did not expect much convection today. Also, we needed time to debug one of our radiosonde systems. And finally, Craig felt that we needed more data. So, we decided to split into two tems: "P" and "Q". Mike Voss did the labeling - ask him! Team "P" was dispatched northward to set up RAWS-1 at the site NW of FLG where we did our sunrise campaign last year. Happy days.

Team "Q", with yours truly at the wheel, was directed to deposit RAWS-2 at the site of their choosing. We started out heading NW along 180 (as did team "P"), but we took a sharp right when we got to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort turnoff! Wonderful steep winding drive uphill led us to the ski resort parking area. At one end, we found access to the Hart Prarie trail - steady slope, cleared of all trees etc., nice and wide - perfect spot for a RAWS to gather some wind data. Hopefully slope flows. Also, tons of wildflowers!

Problem: NFS land. Hmmm. So we went to the gift shop where they sold lift tickets (lift operating in summer!), and asked if it would be OK to set up the weather station. The guy I asked (person "A") decided to ask person "B" who was standing 2 feet away (me: repeat story, which is that we are students from SJSU and we need to set up a weather station and nobody will get hurt etc.). Person "B" decided that we should ask person "C", who was in the restaurant looking bored (me: repeat story). Person "C" said (without ever smiling) it sound fine BUT we really should talk to person "D" at - wait for it - Human Resources. Really??? HR??? Not trying to get hired, people - just set up a weather station! Person "D" works down the hill, so I mention that there are these devices called telephones. On the phone now with person "D" (me: repeat story). Person "D" says the REAL person to talk to is the CEO (or something like that), and he's in San Diego, but - and here, person "D" shouts across the room to person "E". Person "E" turns out to be Dan (I think), in charge of facilities.

Within minutes, Dan has driven up the road, and is A-OK with the idea, and let's all walk out there together to see the site. Five minutes later, the deal is sealed, me and Dan are shaking hands, and the students are assembling the RAWS.

Here they are pre- and post-assembly.

AND - my new BFF Dan offers us FREE rides up the chair lift! So, soon as we had the RAWS set up, 4 of the 5 students with me were heading up from 9,500' to over 11,000' on the chair lift. It was one of those non-gondola open things, which terrify me, so I stayed at the bottom, ate lunch and sat in the sun! Here are parts of team Q!

AND - they had cool lightning tee shirts in the gift shoppe AND there was a sale on! Hence, team "Q" is now sporting cool matching tee shirts. And team "P" can suck it!

When we got back, I was amused to discover that the team "P" students were all asleep, having deployed their RAWS. A result, I fancy, of last night's hoe-down (see Sunday's post). Nasty shock for the poor babies...midterm is tomorrow from 8-9 am! Yikes.

On the good news front, Craig worked on the radiosonde, and has pronounced it fixed. Problem was radio-related. So tomorrow and Wednesday we will be doing many, many launches. Also tomorrow we will need to drive back northwest to grab the RAWS. Directionally, this gives us a perfect excuse to visit a certain large gash in the earth!

Sunday: More chasing! Your author getting real tired of I-40 (photos added)

Sunday's highlights: slightly later departure from FLG + chasing/driving all day + more junk food = recipe for a late night!

Saturday featured monsoonal moisture covering the entire state. All that was needed was a mechanism - either "dynamics" or surface heating - to force lifting (and both factored in).

Sunday, the moisture was clearing out from west to east as the trough edged in. Thus, it looked as if the best chances for Tstorms would be east of FLG. Hence we were again driving eastbound on I-40 (after we had a long southbound detour due to a decision to close the connector ramp for roadwork on a Sunday). With our now-practiced "one eye on the road, one on the cell phone radar app, and the third eye on the Threatnet weather display", we chose to focus on a nice cell building due south of Holbrook. Today's lunch - McDonalds. No fancy route 66 cafe food for us. The cell we watched cycled though these stages: building, then decaying but with a new cell developing to the S-SE of the old cell.

We stopped near the southern entrance to the Petrified Forest NM (PFNM) to take photos and set up a RAWS. FABULOUS VIEWS!!! Reason? No pesky trees or buildings or mountains to obscure view. Also, we saw a pronghorn antelope, which was cool. Immediately to our south (20 miles maybe?) was our storm. Nice rain shaft, sound of thunder (but didn't see lightning). See pics of thunderstorm, and thunderstorm menacing students!

With a view to seeing the southern (developing) side of the storm, we headed E-SE via a gift shoppe at the PFNM. Two things: (a) this place gets the "grossest toilets" award so far for the trip. To speed things up, I went in the men's loo, and oh-my-god...I feel sorry for you guys; and (b) they had some large chunks of petrified wood outside with prices like $18K!!!

Onward ho. Trying to get closer to the storm, we took off down a dirt road (which did have a name). To our surprise, here out in the middle of nowhere, we met traffic, mailboxes at random locations, and houses with barking dogs. Boy - people really living off the grid!!! We stopped by one herd of barking dogs to watch the storm (slightly fearful that the dogs' owner might appear with a gun). Some of the students were more interested in some centipedes they found, but I'd be the last to suggest a change of major!

The storm really never quite built into the biggie we had hoped for. Problem was - that dryer air moving in from the west. At this point, it was either: drive east and chase other cells (all of which were moving away from us), or head back west, which is what we chose to do. As we stopped to get the RAWS, we decided to do a balloon launch, and again - the system failed us. We're still not sure what the problem is: software? conflicts on the PC? crappy hardware? interference? So many possibilities, but we haven't given up yet!

Heading back west, I think the strain of being jammed in the van endlessly driving for many days in a row was catching up to us! At one point, we were watching clouds near FLG, and shouting out things like "It looks like an alligator", "No, a frog", "No, a boy on a surfboard", all of which produced lots of laughter! No idea what was going on in the other van!

For dinner, a case was made to support the local economy, as opposed to eating at a chain, so we found ourselves at the Beaver St. Brewery. They were seated us in the pool room, which accounts for the pool playing photos (upper=me; lower=students).

The food and beer were deemed delicious! Spontaneously, the faculty decided that - after six days of non-stop classes, driving, talking weather etc. - a few "off" hours were in order. Which accounts for why students trickled back to the hotel - and submitted their forecasts - between 1 and 4 am. Of course, there might be consequences (in tomorrow's post).