S61 Upper air observations over the Gulf oil spill: A student experience of a lifetime

Sunday, 23 January 2011
Dion M. Delao, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and G. N. Seroka and D. T. Conlee

Handout (1.4 MB)

The unfortunate circumstances of the massive oil disaster at the site of the Deepwater Horizon incident provided an unusual opportunity for students to participate in meteorological operations and research at sea. The students accompanied Dr. Don Conlee of Texas A&M who was asked by representatives of the National Weather Service to develop procedures and examine feasibility of weather balloon observations in the vicinity of the site. This stemmed from the experience of early incident forecasters who noted that upper air observations would likely improve operational forecasts and provide understanding to observed phenomena.

The group embarked on the Research Vessel (R/V) Brooks McCall for two periods of both upper-air balloon launches and surface air sampling in extremely close proximity to the incident. The students were working with new ultra-portable radiosonde technology and helped prove the system for one of its first uses at sea. Participating with the other scientific missions of the vessel, they learned both the rigors of life at sea and the complexity of scientific expeditions.

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