The following is the daily log kept by Dr. Laing during the CAMEX-4 experiment.


Daily Bulletins: Linking CAMEX-4 with USF students


Scroll or click on specific dates.




Daily Routine





23 September 2001

Humberto ensures that CAMEX ends on a high note

Rich Wohlman was the man of the hour or, more appropriately, the man of the seven hours. He was   working continuously to prepare 25 sondes for deployment, monitoring three in the air at one time, substituting for the ER-2 drops when the AAVAPs encountered some problems.

Chris, the mission director, and the pilots gave me a special gift. I got to fly in the cockpit for takeoff.  It was very cool to sit up front, watch all the preparations, listen to the cockpit communications, and, yes, the view was great.  Hope my photos will be good.  This time around, I did not have a digital camera, just slide film so other kind souls, like Mike Goodman, have agreed to share their digital photos with me.

Rich wrote names on each dropsonde.  I submitted the names of my tropical meteorology students so somewhere in the Atlantic are sondes with their names.  I got to launch sonde, Joe, into the eye of Humberto.

More to come later.

12 September 2001

I awoke with a start on my living room floor close to 3:00 am.  I had an inexplicable sinking feeling in my stomach as if awakened from a nightmare.  Then I looked up at the flickering TV images and saw that it was frighteningly real.  A lyric by Collective Soul was playing in my head, "In a moment it could happen, we could wakeup and be laughing".

There is a tropical depression to the southeast of Tampa, but few are paying attention because our minds are focussed on the previously inconceivable violent attacks that occurred yesterday.  CAMEX remains suspended so tonight I will assume my Disaster Action Team member duties and man telephones at the American Red Cross headquarters in Tampa Bay.

"It's a shame our world responds to life as a puzzle in disguise.  I wish our course would lead us towards peace and loving kind"  (Collective Soul)

11 September 2001

An incredible and horrific tragedy struck the world today.  Terrorists hijacked and crashed three commercial airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, respectively, while a fourth airplane crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania while allegedly en route to Washington DC.  My condolences and prayers go to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who have been killed.  To the injured and otherwise traumatized, I pray for healing and comfort.

In the wake of these attacks, all commercial flights in the continental US have been prohibited by the FAA.  The CAMEX project has been suspended, the NAS is on high alert, and the Governor of Florida has declared a 'State of Emergency'.  It is back home to Tampa for me tonight as the base is being cleared of civilians.

I am gazing in disbelief and horror at the television images of the towers collapsing and listening to reports of people jumping from the top floors.  As I recall from my visit to the observation deck of the World Trade Center in the mid 80s, those buildings were so high that cars on the street below look like ants.  How desperate must have been the situation that forced such a choice!   What evil minds harbored such hatred and conceived these violent acts!

While it is possible to fill the gap in the New York City skyline, it is not possible to repair the wounds inflicted on all of humanity, or to fill the empty space left by those who were lost.  May they rest in peace.


10 September 2001

"Stellar!" was Jeff's response. "Excellent!" said Dean when asked to describe today's mission in a word.  What had induced such superlatives?  A history making day for CAMEX and the Dropsondes in particular.  The ER-2 pilot nailed a drop through  the eye of Hurricane Erin, generating the first ever thermodynamic profile of the eye of a hurricane from the stratosphere.   His comment on the historic drop, "A triumph of coordination, technology, and communication". 

The automated deployment of dropsondes from the ER-2, new instrumentation for CAMEX-4, had achieved its potential.  Take a look at Ed Zipser's face when he sees the sounding for the first time.  He was especially grateful as the DC-8's flight was dedicated to ODA, optimal data assimilation, flying around rather than into Hurricane Erin.

The pattern was described as Bart Simpson's head upside down but some of us think its more like Lisa. What do you think?

It was also a historic day for the DC-8 dropsonde.  For the first time, dropsonde measurements were sent from the NASA DC-8 to the NOAA pipeline in real-time.  That part of the mission was the most striking for me because the data was going to be used immediately.  NASA has joined the NOAA and Air Force Recon hurricane hunters in providing vital data to operational hurricane forecasting. While some of the 38 people on today's mission did not have much to monitor, we were busy launching a total of 11 sondes of which nine provided good data.  We had just enough time between launches to transmit the message to NOAA.  Jeff was a great conductor, keeping time, and not getting mad if Dev or I occasionally lost our rhythm during the sonde operations.  With a countdown and quick wrist action, he would send another sonde on its mission to "save mankind".jeff halverson dropsonde launch(video and audio)

For others on the DC-8, the 8hr40min flight allowed for some moments to mingle, even pilot Ed Lewis was able to take a break .  Comments at the end of the day ranged from "Historic and dull" (Michael Goodman, MSFC), while the AMPR team were "successful and happy".  Dr. Krishnamurti was happy since this mission focussed on his research objectives.   The PR-2 team is longing for flights through hurricanes where their instruments will shine.

One could use "wildly ecstatic" to describe the LASE team reaction, but they tend to be quiet, soft spoken folks.  It would have been a nice diversion to see them do a dance of joy.  Instead, we were treated to trivial pursuit (NASA mission manager version) with questions on Greek mythology, hurricane climatology, and obscure NASA facts.  Some questions made some people consider parachuting to Bermuda. My contribution was the following: "Which hurricane was featured in a Bogart and Bacall movie?"  We also learnt a little bit about visibly distinguishing supercooled liquid clouds from ice clouds.  Paul Willis and Ed Zipser had a kind of running bet as to what kind of clouds we were seeing or flying through.  The CPI (Cloud Particle Imager) team chimed in with their observations.

Tuesday's mission will have similar science objectives and flight patterns.  After rising at 5:45am this morning, flying for more than 8hrs while remaining alert, and working another two hrs after landing, I am beat.  I hope that my students will get a chance to observe the weather along our  flight path during class tomorrow.  Right now, I am worried because I haven't heard from my TA who should have received the presentations that I prepared for class.

9 September 2001

"It's easy like Sunday morning" does not apply to CAMEX, everyone's been busy with today's KAMP mission and preparing for tomorrow's Hurricane Erin mission.  Erin, now a CAT III Hurricane, is passing to the east of Bermuda.  The dropsonde team will be launching 9 sondes from the DC-8 and 7 from the ER-2.  The DC-8 will fly a Bart Simpson pattern (picture Bart's head upside down).



The KAMP mission was successful with only one dropsonde launch.  We flew over Tampa on the way to Keys but I did not have time to look out the window.  Maybe next time I'll be able to wave.   On the way back, we flew along the famous Florida Seabreeze cloud line.

8 September 2001

It appears that I have returned to the CAMEX project at the right time.  Originally scheduled to rejoin the project last week, I delayed my return because of the lack of significant convection over the Keys and lack of tropical cyclones.  As a result, a number of missions were cancelled as CAMEX began to seem more like the "Clear Air and Moisture Experiment" [groan]. 

Fortunately for the CAMEX program, this week's weather has become much more interesting.  Tomorrow I will fly my first KAMP mission and test my skills at deploying the dropsonde.   Dev, who replaced Richard Wohlman as the fourth dropsonde team member on site, and I will be operating the AVAPS under the watchful eye of Dr. Jeff Halverson, the PI.

On the hurricane front, things have began to heat up as well (pun intended).  Erin has become the first hurricane of the 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season after days of barely surviving at tropical depression stage.  As Tropical depression Erin moved into warmer waters over the western tropical Atlantic, it began to strengthen.  Bermudans are on alert for hurricane force winds, storm surge, and heavy rain.  Ed Zipser announced today that we may be able to fly into Erin on Monday.

Tropical Depression 7 is moving across the mid Atlantic and conditions appear favorable for strengthening.  It is important to note that this week is the period of maximum tropical cyclone frequency in the Atlantic.

Dr. Arlene Laing

Department of Geography
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL 33620