|Jerry Duggan, Microgrid Project Engineer, Colorado State University Energy Institute, Fort Collins, Colorado, has provided this photo of an IESRE pyranometer used in their project to determine how multiple pyranometers can be used to track cloud motion. 12 of these pyranometers will be deployed in a 200m x 200m square array, with a Kipp & Zonen pyranometer installed as a reference instrument in the middle of the array. Such a project is part of ongoing national efforts to determine how to integrate the highly variable input from solar photovoltaic arrays into the electric grid. IESRE's pyranometers provide an ideal low-cost solution for projects that require many pyranometers.|
|David Brooks met at the Academy for Urban Planning with teachers from the AUP, the Green School, and the JVL Wildcat Academy in lower Manhattan, to plan student projects for environmental monitoring. The AUP has an active hydroponics gardening setup that provides a focus for these projects. Starting in the 2017-18 school year, IESRE will offer a series of onsite and online meetings with teachers and students to implement environmental monitoring projects using Arduino microcontrollers.|
|One of IESRE's goals is building opportunities for high-quality online teaching and learning experiences. When schools are able to take advantage of recent significant advances in online technology in their classrooms, collaborative online learning that helps to support teachers and students is becoming an integral component in high-quality science education. This image shows Brian Knoerzer and students from the Green School in Brooklyn, NY, discussing Arduino microcontroller coding for using photoresistors to measure and respond to light levels. Note the high quality of the image of Dr. Brooks being transmitted from his home office. Later, Dr. Brooks' webcam was focused on Arduino hardware asssembled for this session and screen sharing was used to demonstrate in real time the process of writing and testing Arduino code. Screen sharing by students as they write and debug their own code makes it easy to collaborate to create new projects and solve problems as they arise, in real time. This can save teachers and students possibly many frustrating hours of code debugging that can quickly be resolved by a "distant" mentor.|
Mr. William Chen, an 11th grade student at Methacton High School, Worcester, Pennsylvania, has received a first place award in Earth and Space Sciences at the Delaware Valley Science Fair, the major student science fair competition in our area. His project looked at the quantitative relationship between sky color – in particular the gray scale brightness of clear sky images recorded at the same manual digital camera settings – to ozone, particulates, and water vapor in the atmosphere. It is widely observed that there is a qualitative relationship between sky color and atmospheric conditions, but it is not easy to transform these observations into a quantitative relationship.
In addition to his first place award, Mr. Chen received special awards from the American Meteorological Society and NASA. He also received a $60,000 scholarship offer from Philadelphia's University of the Sciences.
The support provided for this project by IESRE's David Brooks was made possible by a three-year grant awarded to IESRE by the Toyota USA Foundation in 2014. Their generous grant provides equipment and mentoring support for student environmental science research across the country. IESRE is pleased to have local students benefit from this support.
Dr. Brooks held a workshop for six teachers from three high schools in Brooklyn, NY:
The Academy of Urban Planning
The Academy for Environmental Leadership
The Green School: An Academy for Environmental Careers
The purpose of the workshop, hosted by The Green School, was to develop environmental monitoring skills using a variety of sensors and Arduino microcontrollers. The workshop and related activities are supported by The Toyota USA Foundation, through IESRE's Facilitating Environmental Science Inquiry and Research for Students and Educators project. On the left is Paul Mondesire, who organized this activity with the encouragement and support of the Secondary School Superintendent for these schools and the office of the Brooklyn Borough President.
All three of these schools serve predominantly minority populations and they understand the need to provide relevant educational opportunities for a wide range of students graduating into an increasingly technical world. We believe that familiarity with microcontrollers is as essential for today's 21st century students as basic computer literacy was for the late 20th century.
|Testing a soil moisture sensor||Writing Arduino code|
|Dr. Brooks met with State Senator John Rafferty (second from left), representatives from PennEnvironment, and two of Senator Rafferty's constituents to discuss climate change and clean energy policy initiatives for 2017. Brooks pointed out that economic forces are now as important as policy for promiting a clean energy future, and he urged Senator Rafferty, already a strong supporter of environmental issues, to support improvements in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (Act 213), including increasing the "solar carve-out" provision as a way to create more job opportunites in the renewable energy market.|
| A new student research project is underway at Orange Elementary School,
Waterloo, Iowa, supported by IESRE's
FESIRSE program, funded by the Toyota
USA Foundation. Working with Expanded Learner Program Teacher
Stacey Snyder, two students are studying the influence of weather on
bird behavior at the school's feeder. As can be seen from the photo, Orange Elementary
School is an ideal place for a weather station because of minimum interference from
trees, large building, and other possible intrusions on the horizon. The school is
also planning plantings around the school to provide a more bird-friendly environment.
IESRE partner Youth Learning As citizen Environmental Scientists (YLACES) (http://www.ylaces.org/) has funded purchase of an automated weather station for the school, which will be installed soon.
The two-channel LED-based sun photometer shown here, with serial number
RG8-1000, marks a milestone
for these instruments. LED-based sun photometers were developed for the GLOBE program by
David Brooks and Forrest Mims in the mid-1990s, starting with a one-channel instrument built
in an off-the-shelf RadioShack plastic case. By 2000, a two-channel version was developed
with spectral responses centered around 505 nm (green) and 625 nm (red) wavelengths. They
continue to be available through the Institute for Earth Science Research and Eduction,
Intially, these instruments required a separate plug-in voltmeter to read the outputs. By 2001, the current RG8 series of instruments, using a custom-designed pc board on which through-hole components are hand-soldered, had both a built-in digital panel meter and an IC temperature sensor to monitor air temperature inside the case. When an initial stock of custom-made cases ran out and was considered too expensive to replace, IESRE switched to modified stock ABS plastic cases, which is what is shown here.
The 1000 serial number doesn't represent the total production history of these instruments. Along the way other versions of this instrument were also made, including more than 100 RG8-series instruments "branded" for NASA's CALIPSO program and physically similar instruments for measuring total colum water vapor in the atmosphere. The current pc board design allows the addition of two more detectors for custom applications.
We believe these sun photometers are unique among inexpensive atmosphere monitoring instruments for student and other research. Since 2003, one or two RG8 series instruments, which also include a blue-channel detector, have been calibrated each year by Forrest Mims at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The "Langley plot" calibrations done at this unique high-elevation laboratory are widely accepted as the gold standard for sun photometer calibrations and provide reference sources for "transfer calibrations" of all these sun photometers (except for a few dozen which have been purchased and calibrated by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Instute (KNMI) in the Netherlands, in support of their student atmospheric research programs.)
|As IESRE's Toyota USA Foundation-sponsored FESIRE project matures, we continue to develop our ability to deliver high-quality online content. This screen shot shows students from the JVL Wildcat Academy at the end of a 1-1/2-hour Skype session, during which we developed code for using Arduino microcontrollers and solid state relays to control 110-V lights and fans. STEM Teacher Anthony Brown is second from the left in the photo.|
|Students working on the air-suspended particulate collection project started earlier this year by Lisa Chizek, grades 5-6 science teacher and STEM coordinator at North Tama Elementary School, Traer, Iowa, participated in North Tama's STEM Fair on April 8. The photo shows Dr. Ryan Wise, Iowa's Director of Education, discussing the project with students. The particulate collection device, designed for this project by David Brooks with support from the Toyota USA Foundation's grant to IESRE, Facilitating Environmental Science Inquiry and Research for Students and Educators project, is shown mounted on a camera tripod at the right of the photo. Also visible in the photo is the digital microscope, connected to a laptop, which students use to count particles collected on a microscope slide taken from the collector, which has a small battery-powered fan to blow air across the slide.|
Following up on an inquiry from Lisa Chizek, a grades 5-6 teacher and the STEM coordinator
at North Tama Elementary School, Traer, Iowa,
David Brooks used support from the Toyota USA Foundation-sponsored FESIRSE project to design
some simple devices for collecting particulates in the air, shown here. The collector consists of a PVC pipe coupling, a small
fan, and a slot holding a microscope slide. The images below show students setting up their collectors
on camera tripods, with
2 D-cells to power the fan.
Tama County is a rural farming county located in central Iowa. The North Tama School District population is predominantly Caucasian, with only about 7% of students belonging to any race "other than White." About 35% of students are eligible to participate in free or reduced-price lunch programs and about 13% are from families meeting U.S. Census Bureau definitions for living in poverty.
In 2015 North Tama Elementary School received the Iowa STEM Redesigned Learning Environment Grant from the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council. The grant application was co-written by Ms. Chizek.
| IESRE has started its fall 2015 FESIRSE project with the STEM program at John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy Charter School.
During the summer we worked closely with teacher Anthony Brown to focus the STEM curriculum
around environmental themes. The rare opportunity for extended STEM
classes at JVL, along with a consistently high level of administrative support, continues to inspire this project.
This year, we have started the fall program with an introduction to Arduino microcontrollers. Later in the semester we will once again
build pyranometers, a "signature" activity for IESRE programs when we work with students and teachers.
It is worth noting that Mr. Brown was inducted this year as a Fellow in the New York Academy for Teachers and was one of 18 New York teachers to be selected to participate in a chemistry Master Class with Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann. Also this year, JVL Wildcat Academy was awarded a Bronze rating in the 2015 US News & World Report annual rankings of New York high schools. JVL Academy is an "alternative" high school for students who have had problems at traditional high schools. The student body is 99% minority and more than three-quarters from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Considering these demographics, these are remarkable achievements and IESRE is proud to be partnering with this institution!
|At the Eastern Iowa Science and Engineering Fair, held March 21, 2015, two students from Evans Middle School, Ottumwa, Iowa, presented
their project on testing phosphate and nitrate levels in the Des Moines River. Their project won 1st place
in their competing division (Geology/Water Science Research). They were in the top 15 out of over 100 junior exhibits and
they received an outstanding mention for the statistical analysis of their results.
IESRE is pleased to have supported this project through our USA Toyota Foundation-supported project, Facilitating Environmental Science Inquiry and Research for Students and Educators. We provided water testing kits and ongoing support for the students during the course of their research. This successful project has provided valuable lessons on providing equipment and personal support "at a distance" – an essential component of sustainable programs to improve the infrastructure for supporting authentic student science research.
|Students at l'Ecole des Mines d'Alès, Alès, France, have installed a web-connected weather station, including two IESRE pyranometers. This school, founded in 1843, offers diplomas in civil engineering, materials and mechanics, risk and environmental management, and system and production engineering. Under the guidance of Mr. Frédéic BOEF, students in the civil engineering program are engaged in a project to build low-cost monitoring systems. The system shown here uses open-source Raspberry Pi and Arduino technologies to collect data and post it online. The radiation shield, which contains relative humidity and temperature sensors, is constructed from flowerpot saucers.|
|David Brooks (far left in photo) participated in the "Building the Climate Change Education and Communication Collective" workshop and symposium at the National Council for Science and Education's 14th National Conference, "Building Climate Solutions," held in Arlington, VA, January 27-29. Brooks and two other PI's for the NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) program discussed their projects and participated in planning for building a "backbone" organization to support climate science education.|
|David Brooks presented a poster describing new online applications for accessing and visualizing NOAA climate data at the meeting for PIs of climate science education projects funded by NASA, NOAA, and the NSF, held in Arlington, VA. These data – 30-year climate normals, the US Historical Climatology Network, and the US Climate Reference Network – provide the primary sources that students need for authentic climate research. The applications are available HERE.|
This summer, 40 IESRE pyranometer kits were used by high school students at a summer science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics program at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland,
sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program.
IESRE's David Brooks and Robyn Dahl from UC Riverside held a three-day workshop for students and teachers from
Riverside STEM Academy and other middle schools in the Riverside (California) Unified School District. Participants built pyranometers,
discussed climate science issues related to Earth's radiative balance, and started writing plans for student research projects
starting in the fall. The workshop also introduced new online software, written
by Brooks, for examining 30-year climate means and data from NOAA's Climate Reference Network – a data set that will form
the basis for tracking climate changes in the continental United States during the 21st century.
Students from Dr. Suzanne Banas' science classes at |
South Miami Community Middle School have submitted
three manuscripts to the special climate science
edition of Journal of Emerging Investigators,
to be published in the summer of 2013. (See the notice
for this student publishing opportunity on our home page.)
This photo and text was included in the current newsletter
from Dr. Banas' school district. Our congratulations to
Dr. Banas and her students for the work they have put into
these CSRES-sponsored projects!
|IESRE President David Brooks attended the June 10-14, 2012 GLOBE/Europe-Eurasia Annual Conference in De Bilt (a few
kilometers from Utrecht), Netherlands.
This meeting included an entire day devoted to aerosols and student measurements using the two-channel LED-based
sun photometer developed for the GLOBE program in the 1990's by Brooks and Forrest Mims. In 2003, the Netherlands' Royal Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the GLOBE Program in the Netherlands
started a collaborative program of collecting aerosol optical thickness data that has continued to the
present time and is now being expanded to other European and Eurasian countries.
The aerosols monitoring program in the Netherlands is one of the most successful student/teacher/scientist research collaborations in the world. Student sun photometer data from Dutch schools have been used in peer-reviewed publications and continue to provide ground validation support for space-based instruments measuring aerosol optical thickness. Since the beginning of its support for the GLOBE Program, KNMI has recognized that the goal of obtaining reliable and usable results from student measurements can be achieved only with ongoing high levels of scientific support. This support is continuing under the leadership of KNMI scientist Elise Hendriks, who organized the session at KNMI's headquarers.
In addition to sun photometry, Brooks also discussed the use of inexpensive IESRE-designed pyranometers for monitoring solar radiation at Earth's surface, a new IESRE-developed sensor to monitor surface radiating temperature, and a cellphone application for interpreting black carbon deposited on filters, developed by Nithya Ramanathan, founder of Nexleaf Analytics.
One of the first prototypes of the inexpensive IESRE pyranometer
has finally failed. Although it may seem strange to announce the failure of an instrument, we believe the long life of this
device is worth celebrating! One-minute insolation samples have been collected from this instrument continuously since May 2008.
An initial calibration
against a new Apogee pyranometer in 2008 was followed last year with a calibration against a new Kipp & Zonen SP-Lite pyranometer. The
graph at the right shows the first data collected with the co-located Apogee instrument during very cloudy weather in May 2008. (The graph was only for our internal use, so we didn't bother
to label the axes.) The difference
between the 2008 and 2011 calibration constants, which could have been caused by a combination of changes in the IESRE pyranometer and performance
differences between the Apogee and Kipp & Zonen instruments, was less than 1%!|
The source of the failure of this instrument, which caused the output to drop by nearly half over a few weeks, is unknown. The photos show that the case and the housings are dirty and faded, but the Teflon diffusers look brand new — unaffected by years of constant exposure to sunlight. Under the diffuser, the surface looks like a small amount of superglue may have seeped in around the photodiode when it was installed, but there is no serious degradation of this surface. (The lefthand housing is for an uncalibrated near-IR detector.)
Regardless of the source of the problem with this instrument, we believe this is a remarkable performance record. There is no point in trying to recalibrate such an instrument when the source of the dramatic change in output is unknown. The low cost means not only that multiple observing sites can be established very economically, but also that when an instrument eventually fails (as all instruments will), the most reasonable course of action is simply to replace it!
|David Brooks gave an invited presentation entitled "Climate Research by K-12 Students: Can They Do It? Will Anybody Care?" at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. You can find a PDF version of the PowerPoint presentation here.|
|Near the end of July, IESRE reached a milestone with its 100th calibrated pyranometer. In keeping with IESRE's education and research mission, these instruments are being used by professional researchers, teachers, students for science projects, colleges and universities, individuals interested in solar power, and our own projects including the NASA-funded Global Climate Change Education project in collaboration with Queens College, City University of New York. Hundreds more pyranometers have been provided in kit form to a wide audience. Building these kits is always part of our educator professional development workshops, for example; this is an activity that actively combines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — the four components of STEM education.|
|Our friend and colleague Forrest Mims is once again at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii to do his annual calibrations of atmospheric monitoring instruments, including two IESRE pyranometers and our two reference LED-based sun photometers. The photo at the far right shows the pyranometers installed at MLO. In the background are several research-quality radiometers and Mauna Kea is visible behind them. Note the band of clouds in the image. These clouds are below the observatory, which is at an elevation of 3397 m. The other photo shows clouds, including cirrus, over the Observatory at twilight, June 14, 2011. Cirrus clouds during the day interfere with sun photometer calibrations. (Both photos used with permission from Forrest Mims.)|
|The sun photometer calibrations are based on so-called Langley plots. These calibrations require a stable atmosphere and MLO is the site preferred for such work by atmospheric scientists. Manually collecting the data takes several hours, starting just after sunrise and continuing as the solar elevation angle increases during the morning. Under a stable atmosphere, a graph of the logarithm of the voltage output from the sun photometer as a function of the relative air mass should be a straight line. Although the weather over Hawaii has been unusually cloudy this year, clouds often lie below the elevation of the observatory and Forrest was able to obtain excellent data for our three-channel reference sun photometers on the morning of June 11; the results for one of the instruments is shown here. The two reference instruments are used as calibration sources for all of the sun photometers sold by IESRE. Comparisons with data from previous years continues to confirm that despite their low cost compared to commercial sun photometers, IESRE's LED-based sun photometers are extremely stable and reliable instruments for measuring aerosol optical thickness.|
|Year||P-007 Calibration factor
from 3-yr avg.
The three figures show data for a single day in June 2008, December 2008, and June 2009. The comparison is between an IESRE pyranometer and an Eppley PSP thermopile pyranometer. The calibration constants used to convert the IESRE pyranometer voltages range from 5.05 to 5.15 (W/m2)/mV -- a range of 2%. This is remarkably stable performance for these kinds of instruments; even the very expensive PSP pyranometers experience calibration drift and need to be recalibrated frequently.
A research project in an alpine meadow in Colorado's San Juan Mountains included two-channel radiometers designed by IESRE. These inexpensive instruments allowed researchers to monitor 16 sites, where snow melt was artificially manipulated. The radiometers were used to monitor the status of snow cover at each site and track the growth of vegetation.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Early Edition," 02 July 2009
Biological consequences of earlier snowmelt from desert dust deposition in alpine landscapes
Heidi Steltzera,Chris Landryb, Thomas H. Painterc, Justin Andersona, and Edward Ayresa
aNatural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499
bCenter for Snow and Avalanche Studies, P.O. Box 190, Silverton, CO 81433-0190
cDepartment of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9155
dMountain Studies Institute, P.O. Box 426, Silverton, CO 81433-0426
Dust deposition to mountain snow cover, which has increased since the late 19th century, accelerates the rate of snowmelt by increasing the solar radiation absorbed by the snowpack. Snowmelt occurs earlier, but is decoupled from seasonal warming. Climate warming advances the timing of snowmelt and early season phenological events (e.g., the onset of greening and flowering); however, earlier snowmelt without warmer temperatures may have a different effect on phenology. Here, we report the results of a set of snowmelt manipulations in which radiation-absorbing fabric and the addition and removal of dust from the surface of the snowpack advanced or delayed snowmelt in the alpine tundra. These changes in the timing of snowmelt were superimposed on a system where the timing of snowmelt varies with topography and has been affected by increased dust loading. At the community level, phenology exhibited a threshold response to the timing of snowmelt. Greening and flowering were delayed before seasonal warming, after which there was a linear relationship between the date of snowmelt and the timing of phenological events. Consequently, the effects of earlier snowmelt on phenology differed in relation to topography, which resulted in increasing synchronicity in phenology across the alpine landscape with increasingly earlier snowmelt. The consequences of earlier snowmelt from increased dust deposition differ from climate warming and include delayed phenology, leading to synchronized growth and flowering across the landscape and the opportunity for altered species interactions, landscape-scale gene flow via pollination, and nutrient cycling.
See also this report about Heidi Steltzer's work at www.sciencenews.org.
A mathematical analysis of how sun photometers work shows that, under constant sky conditions, the logarithm of the output
voltage of the instrument as a function of the relative air mass, based on the elevation of the sun above the horizon, must be a straight line. This straight
line is extrapolated back to a relative air mass of 0 and that value, which determines the output voltage from the instrument if there were no atmosphere between the instrument
and the sun, provides a calibration constant. Each instrument has a slightly different response, so every instrument must be calibrated individually. It is
impractical to do a Langley plot calibration for every instrument, so the alternative is to calibrate "field" instruments by comparing their output
to a reference instrument that has been calibrated using the Langley plot method.|
The graph shows some very high quality Langley plots based on data collected by Forrest on May 2nd. Collecting these data, usually for several different instruments at once, is very labor-intensive and requires intense concentration over several hours. Because of the nature of the Langley plot, which involves calculating logarithms and the sun's position in the sky, it is not possible as a practical matter for an observer to "fudge" the data (voltage and time) as they are being collected. As an additional check on data quality, our policy has always been for Forrest to send the raw data to me for constructing the Langley plots independently. So, when the plots are this linear, as predicted by theory for ideal atmospheric conditions, we have very high confidence in the resulting calibrations and, as a result, very high confidence in the atmospheric optical thickness data collected by these instruments.
|Long-time data contributor Wade Geery, from Arrie Goforth Elementary School in Norfork, Arkansas, has sent this amazing picture of ice at his pyranometer site. Ice has covered the entire pyranometer assembly and the ice accumulation around the pyranometer cable is about 3 cm in diameter! Some homes in this area were without power for several weeks because of downed wires and utility poles. The righthand image shows the pyranometer with the ice gone.|
|On the third of three trips sponsored by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, David Brooks led workshops at Thailand's Institute for the Promotion of Teaching of Science and Technology (IPST), Bangkok, and Maejo University, Chiang Mai. He also gave a lecture (translated into Thai) on student climate science research to approximately 700 undergraduates at Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and visited a school on Koh Samui (Samui Island), off the east coast of Thailand. As a result of this project, 100 IESRE pyranometers will be distributed to schools in Thailand, along with an inexpensive data logger designed by Professor Sirichote Wichit \at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang. This new instrument will have many educational and research applications because it provides 20-bit analog-to-digital conversion resolution in a very inexpensive package, using SD memory cards (such as are used for digital cameras, for example) for data storage.|
|The August 2008 entry, below, reported Dr. Robert Hellstrom's use of IESRE pyranometers on Easton Glacier. That equipment test was in preparation for collecting data in the extreme Antarctic environment, in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Klein, Texas A&M University. The photos here show two pyranometers used to measure incident and reflected broadband solar radiaion on the snow-covered sea ice near McMurdo Station. The pole on which the equipment is mounted is bamboo, as PVC pipe is not allowed at McMurdo Station!|
See here for a summary of Kristin Bondo's studies of tree
roosting bats in Canada.|
The first book:
David R. Brooks
Introduction to PHP for Scientists and Engineers
David R. Brooks
Bringing the Sun Down to Earth: Designing Inexpensive Instruments for Monitoring the Atmosphere
brings together several years of work on the development of inexpensive and reliable atmospheric monitoring instruments for use in research and education. It is a major expansion of Brooks' online document Monitoring Solar Radiation and Its Transmission Through the Atmosphere.
|Peruvian researchers from the "Machu Picchu" Peruvian Antartic Station during ANTAR XVIII campaign. From left to right:|
1. Jose Castillo, with a Microtops from the Directorate of Aeronautic Meteorology
2. Ana Contreras, with a SP02-L from the University Alas Peruanas at Huancayo, Peru
3. Luis Suarez, with an IESRE sun photometer from the Research Institute for Technological Development - ININDETEC, Peru
Note the cirrus clouds in the background. These can create serious problems for sun photometer measurements if they cover the sun.