November 4, 2017 to November 18, 2017
Project Location: 
Lancaster, PA
Funding Type: 
NSF Funded
Project Description: 
Student Experience in Airborne Research in the Mid- Atlantic Region (SEAR-MAR)

Lead University: Millersville University: Richard D. Clark and Todd Sikora

Partners Institutions

Penn State University: Paul Markowski; Ken Davis
Rutgers University: Mark Miller
University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Belay Demoz; Zhibo Zhang 

Requested Facilities

University of Wyoming King Air
Picarro Instrument for Airborne Measurement of CO2 and CH4

Final Report PDF

Project Overview
Four universities are partnering for a two-week educational deployment of the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft (UWKA) in early November 2017 that will serve as the stimulus for 175 undergraduate and graduate students to be immersed in the study of the atmosphere from an airborne platform. In particular, faculty and students from Millersville University (MU), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (RU), and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) will use this valuable airborne observing system to study synoptic scale cold fronts and other atmospheric phenomena in the mid-Atlantic Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain.

The scientific objectives include the investigation of the fine-scale front-terrain interactions that occur as cold fronts cross the study region, and the lee wave processes that occur in the post-cold front environment. During intervening periods, the focus will be redirected to thermally driven circulations such as mountain-valley breezes, possible Lake Erie breezes, regional scale upslope (easterly) winds, and the modification of the marine air mass as it moves onshore, and boundary layer and air chemistry processes. Where possible, we will capitalize on opportunities to conduct sensor comparison (e.g. between the tethered balloon and aircraft at the same altitude) for integration into course content in instrumentation courses, and we will test a novel statistical method for determining the uncertainty in aircraft static pressure (i.e. the static pressure defect) using “Lenschow maneuvers” as part of an exercise in an instrumentation course.

Project Goals and Expected Outcomes
The overarching project goal is to deploy the UWKA for airborne investigations of mid-Atlantic atmospheric phenomena, which will serve as the scientific springboard for undergraduate and graduate research and research training. We are committed to creating an authentic, collaborative, unique and stimulating educational environment, focusing on instrumentation and measurement using an airborne platform to address scientific objectives of intrinsic merit in order to achieve active learning outside the classroom but linked to course content in the short term and curricular enhancement over the long-term.

The students will be intimately involved in forecasting, experimental design, flight planning, data collection, reduction and processing, and analysis of each scientific mission. Students can act on the opportunity to engage in research training related to aircraft measurement systems, and develop skills in the use ground-based, in-situ and remote-sensing observing systems that will be deployed by the partner universities in support of the UWKA educational deployment. In addition, the project will offer the opportunity for interactions and collaborations between students from partnering universities, learn about the ground-based instruments used by other universities, and collaborate on the dissemination of results in journals and conference presentations. We envision a rich and vibrant multi-faceted network of student interaction, collaboration, and outreach where the attention at each of the participation universities converges on the research and educational opportunities made possible by the educational deployment. We will create an environment where teams of students interact with other student teams at partner universities, sharing ideas, data/metadata, and analyses, and where students and faculty engage in outreach to their local schools and communities.

Proposed Educational Deployment
Approximately 175 students will work in collaborative teams collectively and separately on different aspects of the project from the experimental design, flight planning, instrument operation, data collection and analysis, and publication of results. Faculty at partner institutions (Clark, Sikora at MU, Markowski, Davis at PSU, Demoz, Zhang at UMBC, and Miller at Rutgers) will be intimately involved in supervising and mentoring students, and incorporating project-related activities and subject material into their courses/curriculum, both in the fall semester during the project, and in other courses that stand to benefit over the longer term. We request funding for one meeting of the entire multi-university group prior to the arrival of the UWKA, and a second meeting after the project to assess outcomes, next steps, and dissemination. In fall 2017, students will be enrolled in various courses related to the proposed research (see Part III of the facility request proposal for a list of courses), and in subsequent semesters courses will be informed through the infusion of subject material gleaned from the project. We are committed to making our experience available to the atmospheric sciences community through presentations at AGU and AMS conferences, and other more specialized airborne science conferences/workshops (e.g. International Conference on Airborne Research for the Environment, and publication(s) in a major journal (e.g. BAMS), in the hope that we can interest others in the prospects of an educational deployment and thereby have a broader impact beyond this project alone. We firmly believe that the value emerging from an admittedly costly aircraft deployment is on balance with the education and research training of a large number of undergraduate and graduate students and the imprint we leave on the public and the greater atmospheric sciences community.