Researching Abroad and the Thermal Pictures We Promised

2006-12-06 11:03:27.000 – Jon Cotton,  Observer

Wildcat In Color

One of our many talents here at the Observatory is testing instrumentation. Over the years we have tested our own gear, handled loaner equipment from the National Weather Service, hosted outside companies in their pre-production trials, and worked with universities near and far. Anyone who’s been here for a guided tour of our facility has seen and heard the whirring air intakes of the UNH AIRMAP project. In monitoring the chemical composition of the air flowing past for many years, they’ve contributed greatly to the study of New England’s air quality and the changing climate. Some AIRMAP technicians will be on the summit today for routine work. We’ll say hello to them for you.

Another University that has been on the summit for many years is the University of Ruhr in Bochum, Germany. Zip code 44780 if you’re curious. A group of 10-12 students is here on the summit for a week every winter. One or two students will stay for an extended three or four week stint. The projects they’ve done included the body heat retention of various types of standard outdoor clothing, rime ice weight and density analysis, and wind chill effects among many other studies. One graduate student is currently here for ten days continuing a wind analysis she started in a three week stint during the heart of last winter. Wind is a big part of what we do here, but there are still things we do not know. Martina laid out a network of collection points last winter all around the summit. She would walk around multiple times a day checking the direction of rime accumulation under various conditions to determine the actual direction of localized wind turbulence under various mesoscale patterns. Yes, there are a lot of variables to take into account. Using some currently-in-development software she has been able to map the funneling and eddying patterns of wind on the summit and between the buildings at various heights off the ground. I didn’t intend to mention all that detail in this comment but it’s tremendously interesting work. It lays the foundation of future instrument placement around the summit cone.

The fearless leader of all these students is a man who has been visiting the summit since 1997. Andreas Pflitsch is a Professor of Geography at the University of Ruhr. He takes one or two trips a year to our fair mountain in addition to spending a good bit of time in the Midwest. He specializes in cave and subway tunnel wind flow mapping, urban climatology and this mountain.

We know him through his wind studies. He has brought, tested and studied multiple different sonic anemometers at the Observatory. We’ve gained valuable wind speed comparisons between different positions on the tower and other locations on the summit. As a particular company improves upon its design, Andreas brings the new version back for further trial. This week he was up with a brand new sonic anemometer from a German company we have just started working with. At all hours of the day, Andreas was running up to the tower to monitor the ice build up as the winds increased and temperatures dropped. Then he’d compare the icing rate to output data and signal quality and send the results overseas.

The anemometer is a neat device of course, but personally speaking I think our favorite toy of the week was his thermal camera. Andreas used it to photograph the heat output of all the anemometers versus icing. In the off hours we went looking at various other thermal outputs. The camera coupled with software shows on a pixel by pixel basis the temperature at that point. The inset photo is Wildcat ski area – cold ridges and warm valleys.

Mike Renzi has had a popular media week already. Here he is dressed for the weather.

I joined in for a pants showdown. In the left corner we have Carhartt cotton pants (12oz duck). In the right corner we have Mike again with this year’s LL Bean Goretex Bibs. This winner by a large heat retaining margin, is the LL Bean outerwear. Shame on me for wearing cotton on Mt Washington.


Jon Cotton,  Observer

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