Friday, 29 July 2011

KAIRA Antenna Deployment Complete

In Finland, a large EISCAT_3D support action is underway: a so-called LOFAR remote station is being deployed in Kilpisjärvi by the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO), and financed by the University of Oulu and an EISCAT_3D development project under the European Regional Development Programme.

Construction of the Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array (KAIRA) began on 6th June with the preparation of the ground, and the first LOFAR High-Band Array (HBA) elements arrived on 4th July. Last week, while many of us were in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, for the International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop, the KAIRA team finished the deployment of all 48 HBA tiles. The progress of their work is documented comprehensively in the KAIRA blog. The photo above shows the state of the KAIRA site on 21st July after all tiles were in place.

The next step for the KAIRA team is the cabling work. In the meantime, a container has arrived, which houses all of the on-site computing power needed, and the HBA elements need to be connected to this container. Please follow the KAIRA blog for updates on this.

With this photo we wish all of you a nice weekend!

Photo: Markku Postila; click for a larger version.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Greenland: The Last Evening

The last evening before flying back home from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, after a fantastic week of the International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop, the first ever joint NSF-EISCAT radar school. Despite an early Monday morning start for the participants from the US, who had to be at the air base at 0600 LT, some of us gathered in the Green Bar in our hotel for a last get-together.

The joint radar school was a great success, and we are determined to have joint schools in the future. Next year, in 2012, we will have separate schools in Banff, Canada, and in Sodankylä, Finland, and in 2013 there'll be a joint radar school again. While there has already been much discussion on the location, nothing has been decided, and thus we will leave this question open for now.

A stunning sky with clouds dramatically illuminated by the setting sun topped off a fantastic last day in Greenland, which for many featured a hike to the top of Mt Evans, close to the radar site, where an aerological station had been operated in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Greenland: Hiking to Mt Evans

The International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop, which was held from 18th to 23rd July in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, had come to an end with a day of interesting and at time very amusing presentations by all seven groups of workshop participants. Since most participants, esp. those who were funded by NSF, flew out only on Monday, we had Sunday off and decided to go on a hike in order to enjoy the landscape surrounding Kangerlussuaq. Of course we just could not leave science out of the equation, and thus we chose Mt Evans as our destination, which is a hill not far from the Sondrestom Incoherent Scatter Radar. On the top of Mt Evans, there was an "aerological station" in the late 1920s and early 1930s (66° 58.25' N, 51° 0.89' W).

The first leg of the trip was by cars to the radar site. Everyone had a great time enjoying the fantastic weather in the convertibles. Photo by Phil Erickson.

A short hike from the radar site to the south-west, we came across a phased-array antenna field. This is the receiver system of the Imaging Riometer for Ionospheric Studies (IRIS). The IRIS system measures cosmic radio noise around 38 MHz in 49 narrow beams. The cosmic radio noise is attenuated during particle precipitation events increasing electron density in the upper mesosphere, i.e. the ionospheric D region. The array makes an image of this effect in 49 pixels spanning approximately a square area of 250 km by 250 km at that altitude.

Upon arrival at Mt Evans, the stunning view back towards Kangerlussuaq gives a great overview of this place. The end of the fjord is visible together with its quicksand fields, which are formed by many tons of silt coming down the river from the ice sheet every second. In the far distance one can just make out the ice sheet.

On the top of Mt Evans, there was an aerological station, which was manned and continuously operated for two years in the late 1920s. Part of the observations was to launch balloons from the structure in the photo and then track their ascend and thereby studying winds as a function of altitude. Two people were dropped here by boat with supplies for a year, and then left to do their measurements. Did they sometimes hike down to Kangerlussuaq to go to the pub? No, because Kangerlussuaq was founded only some 20 years later, in 1941. However, the reason why the US Air Force chose this location is closely related to the aerological station: this was a well-mapped and studied area.

The obligatory group photo on the summit of Mt Evans. We would've liked to stay longer and enjoy the stunning landscape, but those who had to fly out the next day with the C-130 had to "check in" their luggage already on this day by 1500 LT. So it was "back to base" after an hour or so on the top.

First photo by Phil Erickson, other photos by Thomas Ulich; click on the photos for bigger versions.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Enroute to Greenland: Travelling From The US

We are at the first joint US-EISCAT International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The US/Canadian contingent includes nearly 30 students, 7 instructors/staff, and National Science Foundation sponsors. With such a unusual group, we took a special route to get here, courtesy of the US NY State 109th Air National Guard. The school's program staff arranged for a dedicated flight from Scotia, NY (about 12 miles west of Albany in upstate NY) on a military C-130 aircraft. Our flight was listed as "Kelly Ville - 50" for our eventual destination and the number of passengers. The National Guard are experienced Arctic/Antarctic fliers who make regular trips to both poles, and Greenland has been part of their mission for decades. We were lucky enough to hitch a ride so to speak.

Unlike flying on a commercial aircraft, the C-130 "Hercules" experience is both more exciting and more basic. As the heavy lifting plane is used for serious work, there is almost no sound deadening, requiring the judicious use of ear plugs and also noise cancelling headphones if you want to be reasonably comfortable. Routine events like the extension of flaps and lowering of landing gear make interesting sounds which can be somewhat disconcerting for those experiencing the trip for the first time, a quality shared by many of our school attendees (including myself).

The seats are simple red webbed affairs on hanging assemblies on both the outer walls of the plane. Under normal circumstances, fliers share the space with cargo secured in large pallets. Since we were such a large contingent, however, the vast majority of the C-130's load this time consisted of the passengers and our bags, duly bound up near the rear of the plane.

On this flight, you don't want to pack much of a carry-on, as you will have to suffer with it under your feet or poking into your back for the 6+ hour flight. (The C-130 has propellers which fly slower than a jet, but its four engines make it very reliable.) Given that our knees were nearly touching, there wasn't much of a center aisle as you can see in the photos, and so walking around in the aircraft required a great deal of care and maneuvering to avoid stepping on your fellow traveller.

Our Guard airmen made the flight a smooth one, and students and staff alike were thrilled to begin their 'radar week' in a memorable fashion.

Text and photos: Phil Erickson.

Greenland: Niviarsiaq

Recently we reported on the trip the participants of the International ISR Workshop undertook from Kangerlussuaq out to the edge of the Greenland ice sheet. Along the way, we came across very pretty purple flowers. Our driver told us that they are, in fact, the National Flower of Greenland, Niviarsiaq.

The plant belongs to the family of the evening primrose, and it is known in English as Dwarf Fireweed or River Beauty Willowherb. The Latin name is Chamerion latifolium.

Besides being pretty, all parts of this Arctic plant are edible and provide valuable nutrition. The leaves are eaten raw, boiled with fat, or made into tea. The flowers and fruits are used for salads or eaten with meals of walrus blubber or seal.

With this picture we wish all of you a very nice weekend.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Greenland: A Special Radar Experiment

On Friday night, we went out to the Sondrestrom incoherent scatter radar with a small group of participants of the International ISR Workshop, which is currently underway at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. After having run individual experiments for all seven groups of students on Tuesday, we wanted to give this opportunity also to the advanced participants in a special experiment session.

We ran two different experiments. First we had the radar alternate between three distinct pointing directions: tangential to the geomagnetic field and two close-by directions. The second experiment involved 4-min long zonal scans across the sky, one to the north and one to the south. In the photo above, the organiser of the workshop and PI of the radar, Anja Strømme of SRI International, discusses the ion-line part of the incoherent scatter radar spectrum with Daniel Martini, who has come from South Korea to take part in this workshop.

We were lucky and saw aurora with the radar. Unfortunately the polar day made it impossible to see the aurora also with optical means like, e.g., our eyes. Here Phil Erickson looks at a real-time plot of electron density. The bright-yellow patch, which extends down to about 80 km altitude, hints at very hard electron precipitation.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Greenland: A Night of Student Experiments

The International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop is taking place at the moment at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, just a short drive from the Sondrestrom radar. This radar school is the first joint AMISR-EISCAT radar school and it has a record number of 44 students with widely varying backgrounds. All of them sharing an eager interest in learning everything incoherent scatter. In the photo above, Anja Strømme, PI of the radar and organiser of the workshop, explains the radar operations to a group of students.

Right on the first day, we split the group into seven small groups. The school is organised in such a way that there are lectures in the mornings and group work in the afternoons. Already on the second day, with a deadline of 1700 LT, the student groups had to submit proposals for radar experiments. These experiments were then run during the night of Tuesday/Wednesday. Every group was given a 90-min time slot to run both the Sondrestrom ISR or the EISCAT UHF radar in Tromsø, Norway, which was remotely controlled from the Sondrestrom site and displayed in the living room area of the site on a large screen (photo). We began with the first experiment at 2000 LT and continued all night. Everyone was excited to get their own radar experiment.

Subsequently the data was analysed and made available in the Madrigal data base, which is a networked database for most of the world's incoherent scatter radar data. During the rest of the week, the student groups will study their data in the afternoons while the lectures continue in the mornings. On Saturday, all groups have to present their results to the workshop. The presentations are half an hour long, and everyone of every group must present a few slides. We are all looking forward to this day, as it is usually very interesting and also a lot of fun.

We were very lucky to have the founder of Kellyville, John Kelly of SRI International, with us during most of the radar school. Here John (on the left, wearing the EISCAT_3D hi-vis vest) is discussing the EISCAT UHF experiment with Ingemar Häggström of EISCAT Headquarters.

Again, we owe a very big THANK YOU to the Ingemar, Jussi, Bill, Craig, and Anja who ran and explained the night's experiments, to Mary, Bill, and Ingemar for analysing the data as fast as possible, to the site crew Eggert, John, Henrik, and Ulla for operating the radar, and to K.T., Mike and Ulla for driving students back and forth between Kangerlussuaq and Kellyville all night. Well done, all of you, this would have been impossible without you!

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Greenland Ice Sheet

Today the International ISR Workshop, which is currently under way in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, went on an excursion to the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Most of Greenland is covered by a large ice sheet, which is up to 3 km thick. From Kangerlussuaq, it's a 38-km dirt road to get to the ice sheet.

We used a couple of special four-wheel drive lorries, which have been converted to off-road buses, to navigate the road to the ice sheet, which took about 2 hrs to drive. Along the way, we came across a musk ox calf. On the return trip, the drivers spotted a falcon, but it was very hard to see from the bus.

At the ice sheet, we had about an hour of walking around on the ice and enjoy this absolutely stunning landscape.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Greenland: The Sondrestrom Radar

Finally, at the end of the first day of the International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop here at Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, it was time to visit The Radar! The Sondrestrom radar cannot be seen from Kangerlussuaq. It is located about 15 km to the west and away from the fjord in a small valley. The location is called Kellyville, after John Kelly who was responsible for placing the radar here.

The radar, which is operated by the Center for Geospace Studies of SRI International, was originally built in California and located at Stanford. It was later moved to Chatanika, Alaska to become a tool for studying the aurora. Later, when EISCAT was established in the auroral zone in Northern Europe, it was decided to move the radar to higher latitudes into the polar cap. Kangerlussuaq was chosen due to its accessibility: a US Air Force base had been established in 1941, and a small harbour had been built. The radar was moved from Chatanika to Kangerlussuaq in 1982, which created the Sondrestrom Research Facility.

By the way, if you click on the location link at the bottom of this post, you can see a map of the area. In fact if you select the satellite view, you can see an aerial photograph of the radar.

On our first visit to the radar, the site crew hosted all 63 of us for a very nice evening reception including some local food. They were kind enough to let us look around freely inside and around the site buildings and answered our questions. Also, the radar was scanning the sky and we could witness the fantastic sight of this 32-m dish moving. And moving it does: mounted on a former mount of a gun from a US Navy cruiser, it moves impressively fast.

A special Thank You to Eggert, Henrik, Ulla and John for hosting us for a great evening!

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Greenland: Impressions from Kangerlussuaq

After a pleasant flight we arrived at Kangerlussuaq, having flown across the Greenland ice sheet. Kangerlussuaq is a small place with some 500 inhabitants. It is dominated by the only major airport in Greenland, i.e. the only airport at which large jet aircraft can land. The settlement was founded in 1941 as a US Air Force base, which was since discontinued in 1992.

The photo shows a view from an elevation south of the settlement looking across the bridge towards the large Air Greenland hangar and the combined hotel and airport building behind (click on it for a larger version). The land is barren: there are no trees, but the hills are green, and in the distance one can just make out the ice shelf (not on the photo). The nature features caribou, musk oxen, and a couple of weeks earlier, a polar bear got lost in this area.

Photos: Thomas Ulich.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Enroute to Greenland: Boarding at CPH

The first joint US-EISCAT International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop will begin tomorrow in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. For the participants from the EISCAT side, the only way to get there is to fly from Copenhagen (CPH) to Kangerlussuaq (SFJ) on Air Greenland. Most participants have arrived already yesterday at Copenhagen. Now the group is waiting at the gate for boarding the big red plane in the photo above. We're all excited to fly out to this exotic location.

During the coming week, we will update the blog directly from the workshop — internet connection permitting.

Oh, if you are wondering about those UFOs flying in formation and invading Copenhagen, then rest assured: they are reflections of the ceiling lights in this part of the terminal; the photo was taken through a glass window.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Enroute to Greenland: A Chance Encounter in Copenhagen

Having a day between flights from Finland and the flight to Greenland for this year's joint AMISR and EISCAT International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop in Kangerlussuaq, wandering around town was the obvious choice. Copenhagen is an old and beautiful city, but on a warm and sunny Saturday during the holiday season it is also very full of people. While cruising around a park, I happened upon Hans Christian Ørsted. I knew he lived here, but hadn't thought of him for a long time. However, he is highly relevant to radar, since he discovered, in 1820, the direct relationship between electricity and magnetism. Later, in 1829, he founded a college, which today is called the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). At the university, at DTU Space, Ørsted's legacy is very much alive. The institute monitors the Earth's magnetic field with a series of ground stations in Greenland, Denmark and the South Atlantic.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Friday, 15 July 2011

EISCAT and StreetView — Part II

A while ago we wrote that the EISCAT Tromsø site is the first EISCAT site to be visible on Google's StreetView. Upon closer inspection, however, this might not be true at all. The remote UHF receiver antenna of Sodankylä can only be seen from the main Road Nº 4 from two very specific places. One of these is the location of "Orakoski" a few kilometres south of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, which hosts the UHF receiver. From this location the photo above was taken. Can you find the UHF dish? It is in the centre of the image, in the gap between the trees (click on the image to get a bigger version).
The other location is exactly opposite of the UHF antenna on the other side of the river Kitinen. The UHF antenna is much easier to see, because the camera is much closer, a few hundred metres away in facts (click on the image to get a bigger version).

The Kiruna UHF antenna is probably too far from any major road to appear on StreetView anytime soon, and StreetView hasn't reached Svalbard yet, so Tromsø and Sodankylä might remain the only EISCAT facilities visible on StreetView for a long time.

Photos: Google StreetView.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Greenland, here we come!

During the coming week, the International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop will take place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The workshop is held near the Sondrestrom incoherent scatter radar facility. The workshop is sponsored by the EISCAT Scientific Association and the US National Science Foundation through its Upper Atmospheric Facility Program within the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) division of the Geosciences Directorate. The European organisers were also supported by the European Geosciences Union.

On the coming weekend, altogether 63 participants and instructors from 33 locations around the world will come together at Kangerlussuaq. The programme of the workshop includes a comprehensive variety of lectures about everything incoherent scatter.

The map shows where everyone is coming from. Click on it to get the full-resolution version. The farthest great-circle distance from home to Kangerlussuaq is 11.360 km!

We're all looking forward to an exciting week at a fantastic location! This blog will be updated live from Greenland next week — internet connection permitting.

Map: Thomas Ulich and Ilkka Palonen.


Edit 2011-07-15, 20:51 UTC: corrected map published.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

EISCAT_3D Science Case: Comments Please!

It is part of the EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase project to define the EISCAT_3D Science Case. This means that we need to detail the scientific objective for building the EISCAT_3D incoherent scatter radar as a new research infrastructure for studies of the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space, to be based in Northern Fenno-Scandinavia.

At the end of June 2011, Work Package 3 "Science Planning and User Engagement" has prepared and released the first version of the Science Case document.

EISCAT_3D will be located within the auroral zone, which is formed as a result of the coupling between the solar wind, magnetosphere and the ionosphere-atmosphere system. At the same time, it will be located at the equatorward edge of the polar vortex, a region in which the circulation of the middle atmosphere isolates the polar air from that at lower latitudes. The different altitude and latitude regions are coupled in a complex way, in which energy is transported, converted from one form to another and dissipated in various parts of the system. The energy originates from the Sun and the science of Solar-Terrestrial Physics (STP) is concerned with understanding all aspects of the relationship between the Sun, near- Earth space and the atmosphere. At present, we are far from understanding even the basic coupling processes, which could help us, e.g., to separate the effects of natural and man-made variability in long-term global change.

EISCAT_3D will offer us observations from many of the key regions to understand these processes. The science case presents the scientific rationale for the new radar under five headings as follows:
  1. Atmospheric science and climate change,
  2. Space and Plasma Physics,
  3. Solar System Science,
  4. Space Weather and Space Debris and
  5. Development of new techniques for radar experiments, coding and analysis.
Please download the EISCAT_3D Science Case document and, most importantly, contribute to the discussion by commenting on the document. You can meet us, e.g., at the upcoming International Incoherent Scatter Radar Workshop, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, 18th-23rd July 2011, and the 15th International EISCAT Workshop, Qingdao, China, 5th-9th September 2011.

Monday, 11 July 2011

WP3: Science Planning and User Engagement

A while ago, we started a series of blog posts explaining the details of the on-going EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase project within the 7th Framework Programme. These are all labelled "project internals" and are accessible in the menu on the right under that keyword.

The purpose of this series is to tell you about the project now and again and spare you the reading of the entire project application document.

Today it is time to introduce Work Package 3, which is entitled "Science Planning and User Engagement." This work package is jointly lead by Anita Aikio of the Dept of Physics, University of Oulu, Finland, and Ian McCrea of the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK.

The purpose of WP3 is to engage with new and existing users whose activities will be within the scope of EISCAT_3D, which will be enlarged to reflect its new possibilities, e.g., to study the middle atmosphere and to do continuous observations.

"More than simply contacting new users, a key activity will be gathering their requirements for the science topics that they will address, and the different types of new experiment which they would like to run. These, in turn, need to feed into the design and implementation of [EISCAT_3D]. This Work Package covers the gathering of these requirements, the continuous updating of the Science Case and its tensioning against the capabilities of the new radar, as they become progressively more well-defined. [...] In addition, two workshops will be held, targeted at specific groups."

It is important that everyone interested in EISCAT and EISCAT_3D contributes to this work package by giving comments and telling about their requirements and wishes for future operations!

Recently the first version of the Science Case document has been published, and we will tell you more about it tomorrow in a follow-up blog post. Already now we ask you, please comment on this document and make your voice heard. EISCAT_3D — It's your radar!

Friday, 8 July 2011

In the Shadow of Saana

The best-known landmark of Kilpisjärvi is the fell of Saana. The Finnish KAIRA receiver station, which is currently under construction, lies immediately to the north in the shadow of Saana. KAIRA will be used for prototyping EISCAT_3D technology and it will hopefully one day become part of the larger EISCAT_3D incoherent scatter radar system.

The Saana fell has a very recognisable shape, and it plays an important role in the legend about how this region was formed. Yesterday we promised to tell Saana's story.

Legend has it, that giants lived in this area. One of them was grumpy Saana, who fell in love with lovely Malla. Eventually they were to be married by Paras, the magician, but another giant, Pältsä, wanted to stop the ceremony and summoned the evil witches of Lapland. Suddenly a fierce northern wind filled the whole area with ice and snow. In the very last moment, Saana rushed Malla to her mother, Great Malla. Then the cold took all life and the tears of Malla formed the lake Kilpis.

Thousands of years later, the ice melted and the giants were uncovered once again. Saana was grumpier than ever and Malla lay by her mother.

The brilliant colours of the autumn reflect the magnificient dresses of the guests at Saana's and Malla's wedding. The youngest of the giants sank to the bottom of the lake, and they are visible to this day as skeletons of pine trees.

Saana, Malla, and Great Malla are fells in Finland. Pältsä is a fell in Sweden, and Paras is a mountain in Norway. All of them are close to Kilpisjärvi. The word "Kilpisjärvi" means the Lake of Kilpis.

The photo shows Saana as seen from the centre of the village of Kilpisjärvi.

Photo: Sally Ulich.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

KAIRA Scenery

Yesterday we reported about the construction of the Finnish KAIRA facility. Here is a photo showing the placement of the first frameset onto which the LOFAR high-band antenna (HBA) elements are placed. Normally, these are placed directly on the ground. But here they are raised by a metre and a half in order to keep the cabling accessible, and to expose the surface of the tiles as much as possible to the wind. This will aid in avoiding too much snow accumulation. The typical snow depth in the area of Kilpisjärvi is about a metre.

KAIRA is situated in the stunning landscape of so-called "Fell Lapland," at the border to Norway and Sweden. The best-known landmark of Kilpisjärvi is the fell of Saana, which is seen in the background of the photo shown here. KAIRA is placed to the north of Saana, which is the remnant of a giant that once lived in this area, and who's story is worth telling. But we will leave that for tomorrow, when it's Friday picture day!

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

KAIRA construction in full swing!

The national Finnish support effort of EISCAT_3D, i.e. the construction of the Kilpisjärvi Atmospheric Imaging Receiver Array (KAIRA) is in full swing at Kilpisjärvi. Today the first LOFAR high-band array (HBA) antenna tile was deployed, and immediately after the second one.

The photo shows the crane placing the first tile ontop of its wooden frame. The HBA tiles are amazing, they are a purely polystyrene structure, yet they can carry 7.5 tonnes of snow, as the KAIRA team demonstrated in their winter test.

The KAIRA facility is built by the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, which is part of the University of Oulu. Every week a different person is in charge of supervising the operations, and this week the author of these blog posts is taken care of this function. This means that blogging will be slightly delayed and at odd times, and also it means the blogs will be about KAIRA, the construction is just so interesting to watch.

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Monday, 4 July 2011

It's ESR!

On Friday we asked you what the structure above was. Now it's time to tell. It really is an EISCAT installation: it's the 32-m dish of the EISCAT Svalbard Radar (ESR) seen from below while the radar points to zenith (90° elevation).

Photo: Thomas Ulich.

Friday, 1 July 2011

What is this?

Friday picture time, and today it's also quiz time! Test your knowledge of EISCAT and guess what this is! Or are we actually fooling you, and this isn't an EISCAT installation at all? You decide, and we'll post the answer to this question on Monday.

You can leave your guess in the comments, or drop us an e-mail. Whatever you decide to do, have a good weekend!

Photo: Thomas Ulich.