Friday 7th March


Learning About LIDARs


Weather Outlook:  Barrier winds in Denmark Strait at weekend, no flights around here until mid-next week

Flight plan for tomorrow: Either transit flight to Iceland or down day.  Possibly some targeting incorporated into the flights around Iceland.




First, an update on the bad weather heading for the UK.  The Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for Monday/Tuesday next week:


As we weren’t flying today we decided to have a day of science presentations and a trip up to the top of the nearby mountain, to see the lovely views.  Oh, and see the LIDAR observatory there as well.  We started the day with a presentation from Andreas Fix about an instrument onboard the DLR Falcon.  It’s called a water vapour LIDAR and (in simplified terms) it measures the water content through the depth of the atmosphere, by firing a laser beam from the instrument, and measuring how much of the laser pulse comes back.  This was followed by a talk from the director of ALOMAR, the Arctic LIDAR Observatory for Middle Atmospheric Research.  They study things like noctilucent clouds, which form 85km above the surface in the summer time, and the structure of the middle and upper atmosphere.  They also use LIDARs, but you couldn’t fit their LIDAR’s onboard a plane, they’re much too big.  


Mel had finally managed to get a plane ticket to Oslo (a popular destination it seems) and left us after the presentations.  After a late lunch (soup with pasta in it and some sort of meat that was pronounced by Erik to be reindeer, but could have been anything) we were driven up the mountain to see the view.  Oh, sorry, the LIDAR observatory.  On the way we overtook the German contingent who had decided to walk.  We did stop at the viewpoint first, the same place that a few of us had walked up to yesterday.  I remembered to bring my camera with me today, so I will update my photo album later with the views down to the fishing village of Bleik, and down to Andenes.  After taking in the views and resisting the urge to give our lovely cameraman a little nudge as he stood on the edge of a very steep slope filming us, we headed up to the observatory.  We were given the grand tour, seeing how they produce the light beams, and seeing the actual instruments themselves.  It was interesting, even if quite a few of the details went straight over my head.


Back down to sea-level and with the focus back on the weather, Erik (Kolstad) gave us a talk about cold air outbreaks.  We had to wait a while for the German contingent, who had spent several hours discussing the finer details of the LIDARs with the staff after we had left.  Dinner was interesting today: battered cod tongue, with potatoes (again) and salad.  The cod tongue was very creamy, and didn’t have a very strong taste.  Being a Friday, we have decided to take a trip to the pub, for details on this trip read tomorrow’s blog! 


The decision was finally taken to send the Falcon to Keflavik in Iceland on Sunday morning to carry out a couple of research flights in the Denmark Strait.  The DLR crew are keen to do some targeting if possible, using the LIDAR as well as dropsondes, and we are working out if this is possible to do as part of one of the flights.  The LIDAR can’t see through thick cloud which is a problem when a lot of what you want to study is below the cloud, or in a cloudy area.  Gudmund has been busy planning things to get us out of the operations room this weekend, and so it looks like we’ll be taking in the sights of Andenes for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.  His plans to get the entire science and aircraft crew to the local rock concert next Friday might not be quite as successful.


Weather Round-up


Not much to report in the Arctic region, and we’re not flying again today or tomorrow.  Today I will restrict my discussion to weather that is hitting the UK.  This is because the plane is travelling to Iceland on Sunday and will fly into the Denmark strait (probably) on Sunday afternoon, so I am thinking about possibilities for targeting.  There is an intense low that will hit the UK hard on Monday into Tuesday night next week.  The forecasted winds are 60kts at 925hPa from the ECMWF model, and the winds are strong ahead of the storm, as well as as it passes over the country.  The precipitation also looks heavy, and as the air mass has come from the Arctic, originating over Canada so maybe it will be cold enough to give snow showers over Scotland. 


A second intense low is forecast to hit the UK on Thursday.  On Sunday there are strong barrier winds in the Denmark strait, which may influence the development of a cyclone in the lee of Greenland on Monday.  This cyclone moves SE and merges with a larger cyclone to its south, as the larger cyclone deepens and moves towards the UK.    


SAP Evaluation


The SV SAPs for 12hrs optimisation have highlighted the eastern edge of a low pressure system which is moving towards southern Scandinavia.  For 24 and 36hrs optimisation this sensitive region is over the southern side of the low, over the UK.


The ETKF SAPs also highlight the eastern side of the low, but for 24 and 36hrs optimisation times.  For 12hrs optimisation time the sensitive region is to the north and west of Andenes, up towards Svalbard.


An additional SAP was requested for targeting Sunday (9th 12Z), verifying on Monday (10th 12Z) over the UK.  For this verification region and time the sensitive region identified by both methods is primarily south of Iceland.  The ETKF sensitive region is further north than the SV sensitive region and in targeting range from Keflavik.