Communication is an integral part of large scale science projects like VOCALS. It started years ago between people from the various institutions involved, via long distance phone calls and many, many emails.
Now that we are in the field, communication is still key. In one of his earlier postcards, Dr. Robert Wood already wrote about the Center of Operations. That is where scientists plan the aircraft missions, report about the status of the other observational platforms (the other aircraft and the ships), take an initial look at all the data collected, and discuss the data with other groups.
Communication also happens on a smaller scale: in the aircraft itself during the research flights. Since the C-130 is a very noisy plane, we all wear these headsets through which we are able to communicate with each other and with the flight scientist who sits in the cockpit with the pilots.
Each scientist on board the aircraft operates a different type of instrument. These instruments look at different aspects of our atmosphere: the size, chemical composition and amount of the particles present; the concentrations of various gases and the number of water droplets; and, on a larger scale, the shape and altitude of the clouds we are flying through. Via the headsets people can then communicate with each other if their instrument is reporting something special. In turn, the other scientists will then take a closer look at their instruments to check if their instrument is indeed also reporting any interesting observations. If it is, this is where the early excitement about the science starts! Sometimes, even the most serious scientist will become like a kid in a candy store when it comes to what they are seeing in and around those clouds! This makes our job very fun.
Also, with the modern invention of the Internet, we are not only capable of communicating with you and telling you about the science of our atmosphere; we are also able to easily communicate with our families back home. These field projects last for several weeks, which means we are all away from our homes and families for quite some time! It is a sacrifice you make for science, but I therefore do think that our families also deserve some of the credit for staying behind and supporting us!
Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific