Air Team

Team Description

The air team is responsible for tackling atmospheric chemistry and air quality data as well as improving weather balloon payloads and instrumentation. We currently are undertaking two main projects: Finger Lakes forecasting via tethersonde and atmospheric chemistry.

Current Project: Finger Lakes Forecasting via Tethersonde

Air Subteam member Sam Jurado working on the Weather Balloon
Sam Jurado engineering our weather BALLOON.

The tethersonde balloon project involves using tethersondes — radiosondes fixed to tethered balloons that move vertically up or down at a fixed location — to measure upper air atmospheric data for the Finger Lakes region. These soundings of the atmosphere will allow for a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of variable surface friction on different atmospheric variables. This will improve weather forecasting in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region.

The balloon will help to predict meteorological events such as wind gust and precipitation type forecasts. Since the nearest regular vertical sounding station, via weather balloon radiosonde, is located in Buffalo, NY, there is a lack of accurate weather information of this type for Ithaca. Not only can atmospheric conditions vary dramatically in the distance between Ithaca and Buffalo, the influence that topographical features such as the gorges, ridges, creeks and lakes that make up Tompkins County cannot be demonstrated by soundings taken in Buffalo. Measuring the local low-level environment in a variety of conditions is scientifically important to understand how the near-Ithaca boundary layer differs from that measured by the regular soundings of Buffalo, aiding Ithaca area forecasting and scientific interests.

A major focus of ours is studying the diurnal wind patterns of the Finger Lakes region due to the lake source heating effect, including plotting wind vector diagrams. The goal of this is to create a clear presentation of these patterns, and eventually use the data from the tethersonde to characterize the phenomenon in more detail. We have been designing and printing parts which serve as safety and data reliability components for the tethersonde. These include the 360° stabilizer which makes sure that the sensor remains in the correct orientation during launch, and the safety string guide to ensure that the safety string does not touch the reel. In terms of circuitry, the sensor is fully complete. The air team is currently working on linking the Raspberry Pi module and the computer system to get functional remote sensing abilities. We also need to design a casing for the sensor circuitry.

Data Collection: Atmospheric Chemistry

Currently the Ithaca region is home to a single air quality monitoring station, which is part of the EPA’s CASTNET (Clean Air Status and Trends Network) network designed to measure pollutant trends, deposition, and ecological consequences. The atmospheric chemistry project aims to establish a network of air quality monitoring stations and CO2 sensors around the Cornell campus in an effort to gather measurements of local pollutants and precursor quantities (e.g., O3, NOx, PM2.5). Such measurements may be used to investigate topographic or architectural features inhibiting pollutant dispersion, evidence of public health risks, or expected meteorological condition-dependent pollutant persistence by coupling this data with known hourly weather station data (Gamefarm or KITH).