It’s been a while since I have written in the blog but I have a good excuse, I was in a 4 weeks experiment in a circular wind tunnel in Heidelberg. 4 weeks plus preparation and installation of all the equipment plus take everything back to our home lab means A LOT OF WORK!! Some of you may not know where Heidelberg is (I didn’t the first time I heard about this experiment). Here is a map of all the places I have been during this adventure or I talk about in the post: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zR6f-Im6yd2U.kQUx9OZrrsbA
So, the second obvious question is “Why an oceanographer works during more than 5 weeks in a place 500 km away from the nearest sea water?” Not only that but also you’ll be surprise to know that we actually work with seawater! It is a big interdisciplinary project call SOPRAN (http://sopran.pangaea.de/). They collected water in the middle of the North Atlantic from a research vessel, transport until Kiel where they transfer to a track (whose next transport after our seawater was gums from bear gums, like haribo, so if you taste some salt in the last sweat, do not be surprise, hahahaha). So, that’s the explanation of how the water arrive to Heidelberg or the so call “Heidelberg ocean”. So in theory, I haven’t been without sea the whole time
Next obvious question, why so many bothering to bring water to Heidelberg? So at University there, they have a circular wind tunnel facility. That’s a 10 m diameter ring that you can fill with 1 m water (that means 18 m3 of water, 18000 L; that means if you have a big bath you can fill your bath ten times with this water!!). So this experiment was the first time they fill the facility with seawater, before they only use tap water or destilled water… Of course, seawater behaves different that freshwater so that makes this experiment so important. Ok Mariana, ok… a lot of blablabla but you haven’t explained yet why this is important.
So what we were trying to quantify is the flux between the water and the air of different gases and how this flux is affected with different factors. Some of the readers will get lost with this explanation but I have a good example everyone will understand. Imagine you are in a party with two rooms separated with a door. Originally all the people are in the first room but then more and more people arrive so people start to occupy the second room. Then you have more or less the same number of persons in both rooms, but this doesn’t mean people don’t move, you can see a friend in the other room or a plate of biscuits you like. Sometime the door could be lock or really heavy so really difficult to open and go through. Some other time the door can just blow out because of a lot of wind. So the two rooms in our “party” are the water and the air inside the tunnel and the door is the interface, the surface that separates them. This door (interface) can be heavier or not depending on the wind speed, the waves, the surfactants… so some people (gasses in the tunnel) may fill more comfortable in a more empty room or some prefer the warm to be with a lot of people (depending on their solubility and the temperature in the water and in the air).
I hope my example of the party help you understand the beauty of the air-sea interactions. Of course real live is much more complicate, there are gasses (and people) who doesn’t like others, there’s people who combine closely with other people…
We spent long hours in the lab (some days more than 16!!) but I always try to find some time to explore the surrounding area. So Heidelberg is a really nice and lively city. We also visit the Black Forest and Bern during different free weekends.
Overall, the experience was really good, I met a lot of nice people and we have a lot of interesting data (that will keep me really busy in the next months!!) but I have to admit that oceanography cruises are more fun. First, you don’t have to worry about the logistics of food, shop and accommodation (after 16 hours work, the only thing you don’t want to do is cook dinner!). Secondly, there’s no call to see polar bears, penguins, whales or albatross from your cabin window. All you see is workers in a new building (and that does not change everyday :))