1. Observatory, Meteorology, and Data Management Operations
1.1. Mauna Loa Observatory
R. Schnell, J. Barnes, J. Chin, D. Kuniyuki, L. Pajo,
J. Pereira, S. Ryan, B. Uchida, and A. Yoshinaga
1.1.1. OperationsThe construction of the new Network for the Detection of Stratospheric Change (NDSC) building near the center of the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (MLO) site dominated the nonscientific activities of the MLO staff throughout 1996-1997. The building was completed in November 1997 in time for an international gathering of celebrants to enjoy a week of festivities in Hilo that included dedication of the NDSC building; the 40th anniversary of MLO; renaming of the original MLO building the Keeling Building in honor of Dave Keeling who initiated CO2 measurements at MLO 40 years prior; and a 2-day Climate Monitoring and Diagnostic Laboratory (CMDL) review. The NDSC building houses or will house a majority of the NDSC programs at MLO in addition to most of the CMDL programs once located in the original MLO building. In connection with the anniversary, the Lyman Museum in Hilo presented a well-attended month-long exhibit on the history of MLO that included a display of MLO instruments dating from the 1950s.
A major shift in MLO operations and activities over the past 2 years has been brought about by the absorption of Internet technology and direct computer control and communications into all but a few relic programs. Only a few years ago, MLO data were mainly recorded on disks and paper tapes, with a few programs accessible to off-site principal investigators (PIs) by using a dial-up telephone modem. Today MLO has about 50 computers with most data going by way of the Internet direct to PIs located around the world. This includes large lidar data files and Fourier transform interferometer (FTIR) spectra. Two years ago MLO installed a camera overlooking the mountain site and made the images available on the Internet. In early 1996 only a few dozen people per week logged onto the site, whereas by late 1997 this grew to a peak of 25,000 per month. At present the primary efforts of two MLO staff are required to keep the computer/Internet systems operating and updated. The number of flasks being collected at the Cape Kumukahi Lighthouse Tower MLO flask sampling facility on the easternmost point of the Big Island has increased over the past 2 years because it is an excellent site for sampling marine boundary layer air. This has necessitated sending two staff to the site on alternate weeks to augment the normal weekly schedule. The Cape Kumukahi site has long been a target for vandalism and for littering in the form of abandoned cars. This continued into 1996 to the point of being discouraging for MLO staff and expensive for the Coast Guard staff who maintain the tower. On one occasion the rotating beacon was shot out, costing $10,000 for repairs.
MLO staff initiated a number of activities aimed at combating this problem including having the Coast Guard block the beacon from shining toward a housing develop-ment, welding protective covers over padlocks, arranging for the National Weather Service (NWS) to use MLO power to replace its theft-attractive solar cells on the co-located NWS weather station, and holding a community meeting in the Puna area to explain what our measurements are all about. Through these actions, aided possibly by the perpetrators leaving the area, or youths growing up, etc., vandalism and littering has essentially ceased. There has not been a notable incident for a year.
Within the Hilo facility, the electronics repair area in the corner of the basement was walled in and air conditioning installed. This was a long overdue improvement that now provides security and a less corrosive environment for valuable electronic equipment. The adjacent data storage room was cleaned out, and much of the archive was shipped to Boulder for storage under less humid conditions. This room was carpeted, painted, and turned into an overflow office that is now used for staff computer/Internet training. The room shared by the MLO Director and secretary was partitioned to provide privacy and better temperature control.
The County of Hawaii trained MLO staff on the correct procedures for entering and exiting a helicopter in anticipation of rescue missions at MLO when Mauna Loa volcano erupts again. This training included a flight to, and an attempted landing at, the MLO site. As a result of the test, a larger helicopter pad with clear landing approaches was constructed at MLO and a secondary pad prepared at the 2438 m (8000 ft) level. The volcano eruption escape plan was updated and better coordinated with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency. The last Mauna Loa volcano eruption in 1984 cut the power line to MLO, and flowing lava reached the outskirts of Hilo. It is just a matter of time before Mauna Loa erupts again.
In 1996, Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements (two different systems, two different times) at the same elevation at MLO produced data that were 70 m (210 ft) off the conventional and generally accepted rod and level survey height of the MLO Stair benchmark. GPS algorithms do not account for the local geoid-ellipsoid differences introduced by the mass of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which distort the globe in this part of the world. To address this discrepancy MLO arranged funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to obtain an elevation survey using a new benchmark placed between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in the recent survey for the Saddle Road realignment. This survey determined that the Stair benchmark is recorded as being 3.66 m (12 ft) higher than present survey methods place it. The following are the elevations of various locations at MLO based upon the most recent survey: Stair marker, 3391.81 m (11,128 ft); floor of the MLO main (Keeling) building, 3395.8 m (11,141 ft); floor of the NASA lidar trailer, 11,138 ft. (3394.9 m). These elevations are considered to be accurate within 0.3 m (1 ft).
On August 15, 1997, the most costly lightning strike in MLO history damaged almost every instrument connected to a data or communication line. The charge bypassed safety devices by fusing a path through electronic circuits in surge protectors, servers, modems and computers. The overall cost to MLO and NDSC equipment was more than $100,000 spread over a few dozen projects. The local telephone company (GTE) experienced an additional $50,000 loss to their switching equipment. The new NDSC building has extra lightning protection on both communication and electrical lines, but it appears that MLO may never be completely safe from the larger strikes.
About 700 people from 23 different countries visited MLO in 1996-1997. In November 1996 MLO assisted in hosting the NDSC Steering Committee Meeting in Kona and gave the attendees a tour of MLO. In August 1997 the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for Commerce, State, and Judiciary along with two other Congressmen visited MLO (transported most of the way up by a National Guard helicopter from Hilo) and were greeted and briefed by the Director of CMDL. Part of their education included a web display of El Niño and its probable effects on the Congressmens respective home districts. The largest group of about 125 visitors, which included many National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of Commerce (DOC) dignitaries and congressional staffers, visited during the MLO 40th anniversary celebrations in November 1997.
A small, but information-filled, four-fold handout on the goals and activities of MLO, including a bit of station history and current graphs of trends in halocarbon and carbon cycle species, was developed in early 1996 as a visitor and public relations handout. This has proved to be a popular item with more than 1500 distributed to date. The brochure is maintained in a computer file and updated periodically.
Four TV documentaries including footage of MLO activities and data were shot onsite over the past 2 years, including a local National Broadcasting Company (NBC) affiliate report on ozone depletion broadcast live from MLO for the Hawaii 6:00 P.M. news broadcast. This was a first for MLO because it included two-way dialogue with the studio anchor in Honolulu. In late 1997 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) filmed extensively at MLO for a series on El Niño. The broadcast of this series on the Discovery Channel raised the awareness of the MLO home page to such a level that the number of visits to the page (up to 25,000 per month) are now overwhelming the ability of the MLO server to handle the traffic. MLO staff were interviewed live on the phone three times for radio programs, discussing climate change and ozone depletion issues.
The MLO director spoke to about 18 civic clubs such as Rotary, Lions, Civitan, etc., bringing the MLO message to interested parties. In addition he spoke to six university and two high school classes on the same subject.A new cooperative effort between five Big Island public and private high schools and MLO was begun by a MLO staff member in September 1996. In the program, called VOGNET, students make regular observations of volcanic aerosols from a network of five locations evenly spaced around the island in order to study the distribution and relative levels of volcanic acidic haze or "vog" in Hawaii. Science teachers from the five schools were trained in condensation nucleus (CN) and aerosol optical depth measurements, and each school was lent a Gardner CN counter and a 2-wavelength sunphotometer. Each school takes hourly observations and periodically submits these to the lead school, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, which maintains a database and distributes copies back to all the schools. Aerosol optical depth and CN measurements from MLO, along with radiosonde data from the Hilo weather service, are included in the database. Every few months, a 1-day conference is held in which all the participants get together to discuss results and participate in an instrument intercalibration session. It is hoped that besides being an educational tool, VOGNET will become a scientific resource. No existing vog monitoring networks are in place in Hawaii, despite years of concern over the public health effects of the volcanic particles.
By the end of 1997 MLO had 57 PCs, 45 of which are functioning on the network. Twenty-four of the 57 are running under Windows 95, 8 under Windows 3.X, 12 under DOS, 4 under Windows NT, and 9 under other operating systems such as a Unix type, OS/2, or Novell Netware. The increase in the number of computers at MLO in 1996-1997 was due to an increase in new programs such as the NDSC Brewer system (two), the water vapor program (one), and a new lidar analysis computer (one) coming to MLO. In the Hilo office graphics workstation, CD recording, network monitoring, and guest scientist computers were added. Two Web camera systems were set up at the observatory to process real-time images that are sent to the Web server in Hilo and on to the Internet (another new computer) every 10 minutes. In August 1996 the installation of a new Web server program and a major revision of the MLO Web page were completed. The Web page now contains pictures and information about current MLO programs, history, staff, station attributes, publications, and contact procedures. The latest meteorological data are updated every hour and current satellite images of Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean are linked to the MLO home page.
The NT server in the Hilo office was upgraded with additional hard drive space and memory. The graphics workstation has an HP scanner, a digitizing pad, and an optical disk drive. This computer proved essential in creating the MLO brochures, pamphlets for the NDSC and 40th anniversary meetings, and the Web page graphics, and for the archiving of data and images on optical disks. A new concentrator was set up at the mountain site allowing for more connections to the fiber optic cabling. Additional fiber optic lines were run to the basement from the second floor in the Hilo facility.
A monthly maintenance schedule for backing up computers on the network was established in April 1996 with the backups on (DAT) tapes initiated and controlled from the NT server in Hilo. The old magnetic tape unit was disconnected from the VAX system and removed in early 1997.
In November 1996 a mini-network was set up at the NDSC Steering Committee Meeting held in Waikoloa, Kona. The mini-network consisted of two PCs, one laser printer, and a color inkjet printer. One PC was set up to run the NDSC database and to create signs, transparencies, etc. The other PC was used for e-mail access through the telephone system. A third computer was set up with a 27-inch TV to broadcast live images from the mountain to the hotel convention room.
In January 1997 a videoconference system was set up to test its viability for use with the other observatories and Boulder. A test conference was held with Boulder; video images were good but the sound needed considerable improvement. This technology was considered of marginal value to MLO, and the computer was reconfigured for use by guests and visiting scientists.
The August 1997 lighting strike caused the worst damage and expense from any single natural event ever recorded at MLO, probably even more than the volcanic eruption of 1984. Thirteen of the MLO-supplied computers on the mountain were affected. Two network hubs and the router box were burnt out, as were the cordless telephone, fax machine, and two phone switch boxes. Most repairs were completed quickly, but some systems took months to repair or replace. The above losses do not include damage to equipment belonging to CMDL Boulder, NDSC, and MLO cooperative programs.
[BACK] [CONTENTS] [NEXT]