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Lab News -- September 30, 2005

September 30, 2005

LabNews 09/30/2005PDF (650KB)

ARM-UAV program hosts planning for expedition

By Nancy Garcia

Years of aspirations to undertake challenging climate research materialized recently in a core group of weather scientists from the US, Europe, and Australia gathering at Sandia/California to discuss upcoming plans for observations of the atmosphere above the western tropical Pacific, a region known as the world’s climate engine.

The studies in January-February 2006 will focus on the key uncertainty in climate modeling, the role of clouds, which can either trap or reflect heat from the sun. The formal name is the Tropical Warm Pool-International Cloud Experiment.

“The tropics are very important to global climate,” said Will Bolton (8227), who manages DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement – Unmanned Aerospace Vehicle (ARM-UAV) Program at Sandia and hosted the planning session. “What goes on there affects climate virtually all over the world.”

Deployment coincides with monsoon season

The deployment coincides with monsoon season around Darwin, Australia, which was instrumented three years ago to gather ground-based measurements for the ARM program.

“We’ve always wanted to do this type of experiment,” said Jim Mather, a meteorologist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who co-leads the science team for the western tropical region. “We’ve been working on this for years. It’s a very difficult experiment to do.”

Will said the three days of planning in Livermore in September were intended to improve efficiency when the team collects data in Australia. Using satellite and weather radar images, Bureau of Meteorology forecasts, and weather prediction model runs from the same period last year, the team ran through a speeded-up day, deciding flight paths for the following day and then checking what weather conditions prevailed and how the choices might have worked out.

Dry run ‘extremely useful’

Mather called the dry run “extremely useful,” saying, “we’re really learning quite a lot about how this process flows.” Altogether, the group expects about 50 hours of aircraft time from each of five planes, flying under, above, and through the clouds at altitudes of 15,000 to 50,000 feet.

Measurements will be taken using instruments not only on the aircraft, but also on the ground, on a ship, by satellite, and by weather balloons — more than 1,000 of which will be launched in a ring around the study area during the three-week study period.

Mather expects the data gathered over three weeks to be used for the next decade in improving climate models. Will said the improved understanding can eventually be applied to weather forecasting as well as predicting longer-term climate change.

In addition to the roughly 20 scientists who gathered in Livermore, the deployment will involve about 200 other participants, said Peter May, a researcher with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology who helped organize the meeting. Major funding comes from the DOE, NASA, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

This is the third and final stop in a “grand tour” of ARM-UAV airborne experiments at ARM sites worldwide. The first series of flights was conducted over north-central Oklahoma in 2002, and the second over the North Slope of Alaska in October 2004.

The tropical western Pacific site, only some 700 miles south of the equator, has the largest “solar input,” Mather said, and features massive shields of high-altitude cirrus clouds that spread for thousands of miles, exerting an even larger effect on climate and weather than the thunderstorms that precede their formation.

“They’re difficult to get to,” Mather said. “Some of these aircraft are fairly exotic.” The Egrett and Proteus high-altitude aircraft will be joined by the lower-flying Twin Otter, Dornier, and Dimona planes.

The UAV program uses both piloted and unpiloted aircraft to measure physical properties of clouds as a function of height and time. The knowledge gained can inform political or economic decisions, such as those governing use of fossil fuel, that influence climate change.

Experiment participants come from government and university research groups in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the US. -- Nancy Garcia

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Sandia study looks at large-scale emergency evacuations

By Michael Padilla

Refusal to evacuate is relatively common for hurricane evacuations, as opposed to other types of disasters, according to a recent Sandia study.

The study, conducted by Lori Dotson and Joe Jones (6874), is considered the most comprehensive study of large-scale evacuations in the US in more than 15 years.

“Interestingly enough, there were no refusals to evacuate for the terrorism-related evacuations that we studied,” says Lori.

The research, funded by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, examined a total of 230 large-scale evacuations of more than 1,000 people during a 13-year period. It included evacuations due to natural disasters, technological hazards such as chemical spills, and terrorist events. Of these, 50 were studied in greater detail.

Lori says that even though the Sandia study primarily focused on the evacuations themselves, Hurricane Katrina has shown that the US needs to be better prepared for the aftermath of any event, whether it is natural, man-made, or terrorism-related. This includes properly planning for re-entry of the public following the event.

Data for the study were collected via questionnaire, a common method for this type of analysis, and advanced statistical methods were used to analyze the questionnaire responses. The research identified that community familiarity with evacuation alerting methods and door-to-door notification were key factors contributing to more effective evacuations.

Factors associated with the least effective evacuations included traffic accidents, deaths from the hazard, injuries during evacuation, people evacuating before being told to do so, people refusing to evacuate, and looting and vandalism.

One of the major conclusions of the study is that large-scale evacuations in the US, whether preplanned or ad hoc, are very effective and successfully save lives and reduce the potential number of injuries associated with the hazard. The research showed that in 26 (52 percent) of the events studied, a portion of the affected community refused to evacuate. This was quite common in hurricane events where residents live in the area and believe they understand the risk and want to stay through the storm. However, in general, less than 1 percent of the population refused to evacuate. Cooperation from evacuees was cited as contributing to safe, efficient, and effective evacuations. Public awareness of the hazard, of evacuation procedures, and especially of alerting methods was often cited as contributing to the efficiency and effectiveness of an evacuation.

Katrina evacuation

“The initial evacuation of New Orleans was actually very successful [as Hurricane Katrina approached],” says Lori. “Approximately 80 percent of the population evacuated the city and many tens of thousands more were able to reach the designated shelters. Unfortunately, the shelters were ill-prepared for the sheer volume of evacuees.”

Joe says an important lesson from Katrina should be that emergency management does not end with the evacuation.

“Tens of thousands of individuals were successfully evacuated from their homes to the Superdome and Convention Center,” he says. “The movement of individuals to these shelters was successful, but there were obvious breakdowns in the planning and management for the safety and well being of the public once they reached the shelters.”

“New Orleans was hit with a double whammy,” Lori says. “First, there was the hurricane and then there was the flooding. One of the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina is that when it comes to a potential terrorist attack, we need to be prepared for multiple consequences.” -- Michael Padilla

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Sandians Nancy Jackson and John Debassige honored with American Indian Science and Engineering awards

By Iris Aboytes

Nancy Jackson (6901) did not always plan to major in chemistry. Political science was more her interest. John Debassige (2614) came to Sandia as an intern and fell in love with microsystems. They were notified recently that they are winners of 2nd Annual Professional of the Year AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) awards. Nancy’s award is for Technical Excellence; John’s is for Most Promising Engineer.

Nancy spent several months working in her senator’s office on Capitol Hill and assisted in the campaign for a lieutenant governor candidate. She entered George Washington University intending to major in political science. Much to her disappointment, her first political science course wasn’t very interesting, but her general chemistry course stirred something in her.

She earned an advanced degree in chemical engineering at the University of Texas and discovered her love of research. Her catalysis research at Sandia involved producing liquid fuels from sources other than petroleum, such as coal, natural gas, and biomass.

As a member of the American Chemical Society, Nancy wrote the Catalysis Roadmap for the Vision 2020 project that laid out what research needed to be done to ensure the US chemical industry will continue to thrive in 2020. Her leadership in the Roadmap project led to funding that allowed Sandia to continue its catalysis research.

In her current position, Nancy supports Sandians who secure nuclear weapons and fissile radioactive material in Russia and elsewhere in the world and cooperative interaction with other countries to prevent conflict. Her job is, as she says, “as challenging as herding cats,” but she loves the multifaceted aspects of it.

John’s dad died when he was 12. He and his three siblings did not have the little luxuries growing up that most kids today take for granted. Living in a single-parent family in rural San Rafael, N.M., what they had was plenty of work. Their mom worked long hours to support the family, so they helped her at home. His mom believed that doing good in school would be their ticket to a better life, so they worked hard to do their school work.

He attended the University of New Mexico after applying for every scholarship he came across. What scholarships did not cover, earnings from his part-time jobs did. John made sure to send money home to help his mother and the kids still at home. He attended UNM so he could be close to home and could still help out — put up the air conditioner, fix the car, whatever his mother needed.

He came to Sandia as an intern after meeting Laurence Brown (3825). John began working in the thin film, vacuum, and brazing area, and later for advanced diagnostics and structural dynamics. Then he discovered electromechanical engineering, and microsystems and MESA.

John was selected to participate in Sandia’s One-Year-On-Campus education program and earned his master of science in ten months at the University of Michigan. John is co-inventor on several US patents pending. The concepts he has developed for micro-mirrors and transistors are having an impact on Sandia’s MESA vision.

“I love my job,” says Nancy. “The most fulfilling part of it is using my skills and my contacts within the chemistry community to help American Indian students. Being able to use my success in the non-Indian world to help American Indians is what drives me.”

“My father was well known in his field ministry, too,” says Nancy, “working to bring a multicultural perspective to the non-Indian world and in turn use it to help American Indians. I try to carry on what he started. My mother taught me to be strong, self-disciplined, and to take care of myself so I could do the missions my father taught me to do.”

While staying on top of his regular duties, John also makes time to interact with community students through mentoring, recruiting, and involvement in various student organizations. In his spare time John and a partner buy and fix up houses to sell. “We just sold our first house to a family with six kids who had been living in apartments because they could not afford a house,” says John. “I can’t describe the feeling I had when I turned the keys over to them.”

“Part of the reason I have worked so hard to succeed is to help make sure my mother has a better life,” says John. “She worked so hard for us all her life, now that I am in a position to help her, I do all I can. She’s been my role model, not only because of how hard she worked to support our family, but because of what I learned from watching her – work hard, do things right, get along with people, connect with what is important in life. ”

Nancy and John will receive their awards at the AISES National Conference in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 4. -- Iris Aboytes

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