Category Archives: Launch

Weather Balloon Launch Houston, Texas

While waiting for shipping documents, we were invited by Kate Thompson to watch a weather balloon launch which is part of the ARM research project site in the Houston area.

The Scientific Site is moving in October out to La Jolla. CA for the next campaign. The sites move to areas of needed data collection.

This Houston (La Porte, Guy and Pearland) site is called TRACER and you can learn more about it here.

We parked away from the site to prevent our gas fumes from effecting the aerosol data collection.
Kate Thompson (New Mexico connection) explains the site and instruments around us while the balloon is filling.
Helium is pumped into a gigantic latex weather balloon it will pop when the balloon reaches higher altitudes.
Vivian, Niles, Sarah and Gypsy prior to launch. You can see the data collection instrument in Viv’s left hand.

The weather balloons are launched every 4 hours. Our friend Kate is the Logistics coordinator here. There are over 100 instruments at the sites with many universities running data collection for many research projects.

Paul Ortega explained the plotting of data as the balloon rose.

Mark, the meteorologist on site explained that weather balloons are an old data collection method that will not be replaced. It’s the only way to collect real time data for pressure, humidity, and altitude which can then be associated with data collected by other instruments on site to expand research for meteorological studies like aerosols, weather, and behavior of the atmosphere in general.

Mark helping us understand the power of understanding the atmosphere.

Coffee and Deet in the morning

We are staying two nights at the Galveston Island State Park Bayside in the electric access campsite and then 2 nights at a house Airbnb at Jamaica Beach. Our first afternoon on the bay was a learning experience about the high priority of deet and air flow. The mosquitos find you and swarm as soon as there is no breeze. That includes any surface turned away from the breeze. Until you spray, you can’t get away. Running away seems impossible in the high humidity and heat here. Also, the more you sweat, the more you dilute your deet. It’s easy to get into into a foul mood if you aren’t prepared.

Sunset at the Bayside campground Galveston Island State Park, Texas

This morning I woke up after a great night of breezes through the camper. There was a rainbow in the clouds over the bay. I put on deet and made coffee, pleasure was mine. Getting up before the sun rises above the clouds is key to being able to think and organize the day here. The heat is oppressive despite the sweet breeze. It’s only 88 degrees, but a heat index of 100 makes thinking impossible for this Montana girl. And the humidity!

I watched the white Ibis, GBH and taller white fishing birds stand in the grasses by their fishery.

Out on the bay, the State Park has designated kayak trails labeled with numbered metal signs stuck in the water. Paddling along the trails was so beautiful, especially at sunset. We saw herons, Ibis, jumping fish, mysterious risings that were bigger than fish, and dragon flies. The mosquitos weren’t out that far in the water and we escaped the heat by being out there.

The bay water is brown from sediments of the Mississippi and two other rivers, but it’s salty from mixing with the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t ask how I know, there is a sign cautioning Bayside campers that there are high levels of bacteria in the water. So, you shouldn’t know it’s salty.

Gypsy is a happy dog when out on the water.

On our third day, we went to the beachside camp and waited out the hours before our Airbnb was ready. The water is warm and the waves are gentle. We ran for the trucks when a deluge storm came up on us.

This section of beach was all ours.
See clouds in the background?

Now, we are showered, feed and sooo comfortable in our air conditioned Airbnb. Tomorrow, we drive to Houston to meet Kate Thompson who will get us in to see a weather balloon launching associated with NASA and the study of volatile tracers in the air of Houston:

And, we hope to hear about the shipping paperwork needed to confirm our vehicle shipping to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m also hopeful I’ll be able to connect with Cousin Chris. This is all just a dream come true. Pinch me.