Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 21,22 and 23

Got behind in posts due to interesting weather and air quality over the past weekend. No internet access as well, since I was on the road on the 21 and 22.

May 21

Another fair weather day, with temperatures above normal. Forecast called for high winds over the weekend but mainly over the northern part of the state. Still some possibility for dust in the southern part of the state. Today's MODIS Terra below.

However the story of the day is the hay fire in Mesquite, NM. This fire was burning stored hay at the Del Norte Dairy and was reported shortly before 3 am. The morning air in the Souterh Mesilla Valley was filled with this smoke plume. Looking from Las Cruces in the morning the plume top was below the Franklin Mountains showing an inversion keeping the plume fairly low to the ground.

I was tempted to spend the weekend up at the Four Corners to get some experience with the ceilometer during a dust storm and look at the dust source up by Mexican Springs. I finally gave into the temptation and spent the afternoon preparing for the trip. Left around 8:30 pm to get at least to the Albuquerque area for the night. I spent the night at my parent's place up in the Sandia Mountains south of Tijeras. It's the perfect place to just crash in the middle of the night with just a sleeping bag.

May 22

Left camp and got to Gallup around noon. Saw a large dust plume as I was approaching Thoreau. That's about 30 miles from the dust plume. I travelled up on hwy 491 toward Shiprock. I didn't get far. It was amazing. I don’t know how people cope with this type of environment. Fortunately it doesn't happen too often at this magnitude. This photo was taken at the Bahastla Chapter House near Twin Lakes around noon looking north. Visibility was around 100 feet just past where this was taken. I didn't continue through the plume since it was too dangerous but people were driving as normal.

Since I didn't want to drive through this I took the long way around the plume and took off for Window Rock and come around through Narbona Pass. I also thought that going up to the top I can see the extent of the dust plume and see where I can take measurements.

The next photo was taken near the Washington Pass lookout tower at about an elevation of 9300 feet looking northeast toward Farmington. The dust plume top was about the height of the peak or maybe a little higher.

Points west of the the Chuska Mountains were clear, with not much dust. After taking a little side trip to see if my relatives were home just below this area. Nobody home so I headed down the mountain toward Sheep Springs and continue north on 491. I again didn't get far. Hit an intense dust area and decided to stay put and find a place to take measurements just south of Newcomb. I found one road that nobody has used and pulled off the road. Made sure to get off the road enough so that nobody thought I was on the road. I stayed there for a couple of hours until 6 pm. Got a couple of good hours of ceilometer measurments. Most of the backscatter was below 100 meters but sometimes it was 200 to 300 meters. I was right at the dust source so I don't expect the heights to be more than couple hundred meters anyway. Mainly interested in maximum signal and its height. The ceilometer worked right through the most intense dust storm that I've been in. The optic window was almost covered in dust by the end of the day. Making a note of this for the future. The separate deep cycle battery with 750W inverter worked great. I ran the laptop with a separate inverter in the truck. Even one second of that dust to a laptop will destroy it. I also found massive static discharge in the dust storm. That might cause problems with computers but not sure. I think it would be good to try to get downwind backscatter profiles the next time but that calls for more planning to see where the plume is going and finding a safe route in getting there. The photo below was a typical view during the dust storm at the ceilometer location.

left that location at about 6:30 pm after the winds had subsided just a little and was safe to get back on the highway. Driving back it was clear to see how the dust sources varied by type of land disturbance and vegetation cover. Having been to these areas before there are areas that have been grazed until there is nothing growing. There's probably some soil differences but I think most of the issue is level of disturbance over the years. The areas with vegetation had very little dust compared to the unvegetated lots. These are large lots of 100s of acres. A few places in hwy 491 had dust covering across the lane on the road and dunes building up on the side. Arrived back in Las Cruces at 12:30 am Sunday. A very long day.

May 23

Another nice sunny and breezy day but not much dust as observed in Las Cruces. Most of the border area had above normal temperatures. Las Cruces hit 88 at the airport. Carlsbad hit 97 today. A fire south of the bootheel of NM was burning today. Based on NOAA HMS product the smoke plume was travelling northeast toward Luna County. I think the actual fire was located in Mexico but close to the US border.

Winds continued up the northwest part of the state. Winds peaked at 48 mph in Gallup. Thunderstorms are an issue today and tonight in the eastern part of the state. Looking at the dewpoints, there's a huge gradient in western Chaves and extreme eastern Otero County. Upper level trof moves in to the area so temperatures should drop down a bit. Airnow is predicting yellow ozone for Monday for the border area. We'll wait and see.

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