Image courtesy of Patrick Chuang.

From: Dr. Patrick Chuang
Off the coast of Iquique, Chile, October 24, 2008

Research Flight #6

I'm writing this from onboard our research airplane! The picture shows me during the flight. A scientific research flight is different from a normal trip on an airplane in a number of ways. The planes are very noisy inside due to the engines. We wear headsets to protect our hearing, and use voice-activated microphones to talk to the pilot and co-pilot, and to the other scientists onboard. We wear life jackets during flight in case of an emergency landing. There's no real bathroom on board so we try not to drink or eat too much before flight. Needless to say, there are definitely no flight attendants or in-flight movies - although I suppose I could bring one on my laptop and watch it!

During each flight, the scientists operate the instruments we are using to measure the atmosphere (such as wind speed and air temperature), aerosols (like dust and smoke), and clouds. Not all the scientists can fly with their instrument, so we have two or three people fly each time and we rotate amongst ourselves so everyone has a chance to participate. Today, I'm flying with Vinny from the University of Miami. His instrument is a cloud radar, which is like a radar for locating airplanes, but instead locates cloud drops.

We have been flying over the ocean in an area centered on 20° South latitude and 72° West longitude. If you want, why don't you try to find this point on a map. How far is this spot from the city of Iquique where we're based? Our airplane flies at about 200 km per hour (or 120 miles per hour). How long does it take us to get to this spot? I'll give you a clue: it's long enough that I could write this postcard to you!


Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific

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