Not in Texas anymore……

This blog has suffered in attention deficit along with a number of other things during the first couple of weeks. The schedule is pretty hectic with all the usual fieldwork usual frenetic running instruments, tracking data, making ongoing modifications and tweaks as the monster that is Cloud Lab makes it’s way across the southern US. On top of all of this is the filming malarky which brings another dimension to the table. That said, I have never used an insert net in my life, nor a bat detector and last night we did a dusk flight during which the focus was the migration of moths which tends have a link to the passage of cold fronts in these parts. After deploying the bat detector (basically this is a very wide range microphone at the end of a 50 metres of cable) Sarah explained the idea around the flight and who the various gadgets will do their thing. Dr Sarah Beynon (@DrSarahBeynon) is the Cloud Lab Bug Lady, as opposed to Jennifer Kraul (@batgrrl) who is our very own Bat Lady, they are in close cahoots about the plans and exactly what they expect. Much to our amazement as we sailed along at around 500 ft above the ground a moth flew into the gondola. When it did we lept into action, Sarah grabbed one of the spare insect nets and I hunted out a “kill jar”. Using a headtorch to attract it, the moth was successfully bagged and we await identification.The evening was topped by seeing a small rattlesnake which had been spotted asleep before it got dark, a word to note, the area was clearly marked out so that those walking from the airship were very aware of its location.

P1160253 P1160232 P1160235

Excuses excuses…..

I am managing to catchup for this episode sitting in one of the various chase vehicles which are following the airship as it heads on up into the hills on the way to Las Cruces via El Paso. The bus is driven by a wonderful young lass called Dona, she looks after us and we do likewise. She has a great sense of humour and needs one to put up her passengers.

Heading west on the I10 interstate, we have just crossed another time zone, from central into mountain time, it seems like a very long time since we left eastern time. It’s strange as a very long time ago, in another life shall we say, I was due to go to El Paso but the show got cancelled, it did mean more time in Tuscon which was good. As nice as Tuscon is, it ain’t El Paso. Percy, the airship sound guy did a shoot in El Passo and said it was a great place to “hang out”, unfortunately I suspect on this occasion, an airfield in the outskirts of El Paso (Fabens) will simply be somewhere to swap our filter sampling units and refuel the airship, vehicles and people.

Happy Birthday to the Cloud Lab Meteorologist, Felicity Aston.
Today is in fact Felicity’s (@Felicityaston) birthday, she is the lead presenter onboard the airship. You might say that she is the leader of our expedition which she is very well suited for since her day job is running expeditions. Less than a year ago (if memory serves) she completed the first solo crossing of Antarctica under her own steam, earning her a place in the Guinness Book of Records (LINK). Whilst on the subject, it will be Dona’s birthday on  Sunday.


Tomorrow I head off west with the airship leaving the rest of the team in Las Cruces, this is to allow us to maintain the dataset all the way across the states from coast to coast. This should actually give me a little more time to put “pen to paper”


About Jim McQuaid

Atmospheric scientist (chemist by birth). Working in the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science (School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds). Often found in close proximity to the FAAM146 research aircraft. Previously found urrently providing some science (and weighing clouds!) to the BBC Cloud Lab project as well as making clouds for BBC Wild Weather series.... (more... @jimmcquaid
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