David Painemal and I went to Charleston, South Carolina (US) to set up instruments on a research ship called the Ron Brown.
This included learning to work with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen boils at very cold temperatures so it boils rapidly when it's at the temperature of the outdoor air here in Charleston. It was fun to watch the nitrogen boil off! This picture shows David dumping the extra nitrogen on the deck of the ship. Although it's dangerous because it is
so cold (note his special gloves), nitrogen is a non-toxic gas, making up the
majority of the Earth's atmosphere already, so in that sense it's pretty safe -
one reason liquid nitrogen is used in industry.
We are using liquid nitrogen to calibrate the temperature range of an instrument that we will use to collect our data. Our observed temperatures, when looking at the sky, fall in between
that of the nitrogen, and of a "warm" target. The cold nitrogen and the warm target make two points that we connect with a straight line. One can just read off of the line to get the voltage-to-temperature
value. This is kind of like translating a height rise of mercury in a thermometer to
Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific