WIUDOW 2 Deployment and Class Procedures

Deployment and Class Procedures
Not all of the students in the Instruments course had taken the Radar Meteorology course, so the first step was to present students with the background they needed to understand how radar works and how to interpret the data. Most of this was covered during lecture before the DOW arrived. Students were also given reading assignments on radar data interpretation, especially clear-air returns. Based on what we learned during the first DOW visit, additional lecture time was devoted to radar issues such as ground clutter, range folding and velocity folding. Students were also shown examples of these artifacts from the first visit so they could pick them out.

Fall in Western Illinois is typically dry, so students were asked to come up with both clear-air and precipitation project ideas. Students turned in a paragraph describing their project idea and how the DOW was suitable for observing the situation.  Students then formed groups based on their clear-air ideas. During the first DOW visit groups were assigned based on similarity of topics, but this year students formed their own groups. This likely helped move the projects along faster because student projects evolved more naturally. Some of these project ideas included: modification of wind by a wind farm, analysis of precipitation over a wind farm, detection and tracking of power plant smokestack emissions in Canton, analysis of the evolution of the boundary layer at dusk, analysis of wind patterns associated with the Keokuk dam on the Mississippi River, and tracking of harvest debris.

Before the DOW arrived at WIU, student groups completed a site analysis (often without actually visiting the site) to determine the optimal location for their deployment (see Appendix A: DOW Field Report Writing Guide). The site analysis document students turned in included Google Earth images and target information.

Once the DOW arrived at WIU, students were scheduled for training on operation and data collection. All of the students in the Instruments course received training. After most of the students had been trained to use the DOW then students met with the DOW technician, Alycia Gilliland, during one class period to talk about their project ideas and practical considerations. Some of the topics we discussed were scanning strategy suggestions, site selection issues students may not have considered, and any additional issues students should be aware of for each project.

During the first DOW visit each deployment was given a maximum of five hours for completion, including travel time. Mission times were more flexible during the second DOW visit. Students learned that it is not as simple as driving to a location, collecting data, and then coming home. Sometimes getting to the deployment site was an adventure due to the height of the DOW. It also takes time to get set up once we arrive at the deployment site. These are all things I wanted my students to experience first-hand so that they recognize that flexibility in the field is essential. The study sites were invariably changed as the DOW technician determined the final site locations. In the future it would be nice to try to stick more closely to the students’ original project idea as long as there is no harm to the DOW or its occupants. While in the field, students were told to write down anything that might be significant. Students often have a hard time determining what was important so these became great teachable moments. Students were also told to document the site using photographs. The PI was present at every deployment to help students determine what they were observing and what they should be documenting.

The following projects were carried out:

  • Sept. 18: Wind farm turbulence during precipitation
  • Sept. 20: Analysis of smokestack emissions from the Canton, IL power plant
  • Sept. 23: Evolution of the boundary layer as the sun sets
  • Sept. 26 and 30: Harvest debris tracking
  • Sept. 26: Winds near the Mississippi River dam at Keokuk
  • Sept. 29: Wind farm turbulence during clear conditions

Once all of the student projects were complete, students had to write up their results following the DOW Field Report Writing Guide in Appendix A. During the first DOW visit students focused predominately on instrument issues such as site selection, operation of the DOW and any issues that arose, ground clutter diagnosis, and data characteristics. During this second DOW visit the project report goals shifted more toward data analysis. This was certainly a benefit of having had the DOW previously. The PI was far more confident in helping with the analysis and the students rose to the new level of expectation quite easily.

The data analysis portion of the project was completed using SOLO3. Students learned to navigate in the LINUX environment in order to extract their files to the appropriate location, then used SOLO3 to visualize the data (see Appendix B). Students documented ground clutter on the radar images using photographs they had taken at the site to connect objects in the photographs to locations on the radar image. They also did a more thorough analysis of the data to address their research questions.

Overall, the DOW field projects were again a huge success. Students learned how to plan and carry out a field project using the DOW. They also used SOLO3 to visualize their data and interpret it. The DOW brought aspects to the Instruments class that would have been impossible otherwise.

Project Assessment
The main project assessment was the completion of the DOW Field Report. It was clear from the reports that every student learned a lot about instrumentation, field projects and data collection from the DOW visit. Students also completed a Course Evaluation at the end of the semester but these results are not available yet.