Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Adios, Au revoir, Arrivederci, Goodbye

Wrote this blog about a month ago and Hurricane Irene interrupted its publication so here it is...

A bittersweet day for TTUHRT as WEMITE 1 and WEMITE 2 towers were officially decomissioned. The two towers were dismantled and their respective trailers scrapped. These two towers were the backbone of our instrumentation fleet for nearly a decade, making over 35 individual deployments for 21 seperate tropical cyclones. WEMITE 1 was also the first ruggedized, self-sustaining, meteorological research tower to be deployed in the path of a landfalling hurricane (Bonnie - 1998). Both towers were mounted and transported on a trailer and collected high resolution data (10Hz) at multiple levels including the official measuring height of 10 m. WEMITE 1 was the doctoral dissertation project of then graduate student John Schroeder, who is now the principal investigator for TTUHRT and the director of the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech. Data collected from these platforms has appeared in 10 peer-reviewed journal papers, over 25 conference preprints, 9 technical reports, and 6 doctoral dissertations. The records also represent a very large percentage of the complete wind records for a "who's who" list of landfalling hurricanes in the US in the past 13 years. The data collected by these stations also shed light on the characteristics of hurricane winds in an effort to answer our long standing question "is wind, wind?". Recently the database is being applied toward investigating how the turbulence associated with hurricane winds changes with location within the hurricane. The collected information will likely live on for years to come and continue to yield valuable information on hurricanes at landfall.

The towers' final deployment was for Hurricane Rita (2005) and did not participate in the following hurricane seasons of 2006-2010. The platforms have been replaced by the new 2.25 m StickNet probes. The transition to StickNet came about primarily due to the need for greater spatial coverage of hurricane landfalls. With the 2 WEMITE towers plus 3 portable meterological towers, a typical deployment provided 5 observations points. Each tower required at least 1 hour of deployment time for a crew of 4 people. In total, 3 vehicles with at least 6-8 crew members was needed. With the development of StickNet, only 2 vehicles with a total crew of 4 could deploy 24 observing systems, with a deployment time for each probe of less than 10 minutes. The cost/benefit outweighed the lower and "non-official" measurement height. In the climate of rising fuel costs, the reduction of the required number of vehicles also played a large role in the transition. As for the future of StickNet, we hope to expand the fleet to 48 probes using 4 truck/trailer teams.

So this blog was written as a tribute to WEMITE 1 and WEMITE 2. So long and farewell!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Update

Just wanted to give a quick update as to whats been happening since the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season began almost 2 months ago.

As of writing this blog we have had three named storms so far: Arlene, Bret, and Cindy. All of which were tropical storms at their peak intensity.

For us, the biggest recent event was the 13th International Conference on Wind Engineering which was held in Amsterdam. This conference is the premier event for wind engineers around the world to present their current research. It is held every 4 years. Texas Tech and Lubbock hosted the 2003 version of the conference. TTUHRT scientist Dr. Brian Hirth presented his doctoral research on the evolution of the wind field across the land/sea interface during Hurricane Frances (2004). His analysis used data collected by the SMART-Radars to examine the structure of the horizontal wind field and the vertical wind profile. Dr. John Schroeder, Dr. Tanya Brown, and myself also attended the conference. Dr. Tanya Brown presented work from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety full-scale test facility on replicating wind load pressures measured in full-scale at Texas Tech's Wind Engineering Field Laboratory. She is a full-time research engineer at the laboratory and a faculty associate within the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at TTU.

While most of us were in Amsterdam, field coordinator Rich Krupar and undergraduate researcher Colton Ancell have been working hard to get our StickNet fleet ready for operations following the conclusion of Project SCOUT (project examining thunderstorm outflow wind characteristics). Two real-time data transmission tests were successfully completed and data were assimilated by NOAA Hurricane Research Division into the H*Wind wind field model. As mentioned in the previous blog, only 12 probes will transmit data this year. Real-time data will not be made available to the general public given our limited web server capability and real-time quality control and assurance procedures are still in the development phase. We hope in the coming years to acquire additional funding to outfit all 24 probes and provide web products to the general public.

In other news, myself along with co-authors Dr. John Schroeder (TTU) and Dr. Mark Powell (NOAA-HRD) recently had a scientific journal paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Wind and Structures. The work focused on the characteristics of tropical cyclone vertical wind profiles and their implications for wind engineering using GPS dropwindsonde data and WSR-88D radar velocity measurements.

Also, a StickNet wind record collected by probe 0107A during Hurricane Dolly (2008) will be used by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety to replicate the wind conditions during an upcoming hurricane demonstration to show the impact of wind driven rain on a home. Hurricane Dolly caused significant freshwater flooding in South Texas. The hurricane also marked the first time StickNet probes were deployed for a landfalling storm.

Thats it for now... be sure to follow TTUHRT on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Whats New for TTUHRT in 2011

As of the writing of this blog, today marks the "official" start of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season, although tropical cyclones have been documented in every month of the year. TTUHRT has made several improvements to our research platforms during the fall, winter, and spring.

I'll start first with our StickNet platforms... for those that don't know, StickNet probes are rapidly deployable 2.25 m weather stations. They make research grade measurements of wind speed, direction, temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity. Our group was awarded a grant in 2010 from the Texas Applied Research Program to equip 12 probes with real-time data transmission capability. 12 probes were upgraded with cell internet capability to transmit data in real-time to our servers at Texas Tech. During operations, data will be available to the National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, emergency management, and our private research partners. Additionally, NOAA's Hurricane Research Center will ingest the observations into their H*Wind surface windfield model. Unfortunately, the data will not be directly available to the general public. Our web server capability likely would not handle the amount of traffic during a landfalling hurricane. Also we are still ironing out the information that will be transmitted as well as the quality control and assurance procedures. We hope in the coming years to be able to provide this information to the general public through upgrades to our server infrastructure. As in the past, summary data will be posted to our official website as soon as possible following any deployment operations. The same 12 probes also received new data acquisition enclosures and new ruggedized instrument connectors. This retrofit was conducted to make the platforms even more rugged and limit any water intrusion into sensitive electronic components inside the data acquisition enclosure.

The other major improvements were focused on the TTUKA mobile Doppler radars. Each radar received a new and improved data processor. The new processor (RVP 9) will allow for even higher resolution information to be collected. A good analogy is if we are looking at a row of fence posts, with the old system 2 fence posts were identified as 1 return, with the new processor we can distinguish each fence post. The radar now has a radial resolution of approximately 5 m with an azimuthal resolution of 0.5 degrees. The upgrades increase our capability to observe small scale turbulent features.

Stay tuned to the blog as our new field coordinator Rich Krupar will cover these upgrades in greater detail. We are very excited about our ability to continue to make critical measurements of hurricanes at landfall... with the end goal of "making landfalling hurricanes more like a bump in the road to society"