American Meteorological Society (AMS): The return of face-to-face conferences

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, scientist around the World migrated quickly to online meeting and zoom conferences. However, if there is something that we all can conclude after this experience, it is the fact that nothing can replace the experience of face-to-face meetings. Not only because of the interactions between the colleagues and scientific discussions that take places everywhere, but also the experience to visit different places, cities, and cultures. Next, you can read the experience of Dr. Kerstin Erbel, member of AWARES:

In August, Susanne, Rosa and me went to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Collective Madison Meeting at Madison, Wisconsin. The conference collection was about cloud physics, polar meteorology and oceanography, atmospheric radiation and satellite applications. After 2 years, this was my first international travel, and I was very excited to go. It was really great to meet international colleagues again and see old and new faces!

We had very good discussions during and around the conference and could enjoy the city of Madison (with an impressive water ski show!) and the hospitality of our American colleagues. My non-conference highlight was the corncob that we had for dinner at a friends place. So delicious! Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in life…

Conference link: https://www.ametsoc.org/index.cfm/ams/meetings-events/ams-meetings/collective-madison-meeting/

UPCOMING SCIENCE SLAM! OUR IMKE IS THERE!!!!!

Hey hey, there’s an upcoming science slam to attend! In Bonn, young scientists will funnily present their science.

Among them there’s also our Imke! Imke is doing her phD in our group and will talk about her research: here’s her title:

Aren’t you curious? I am! let’s all meet there to see the show!

WHERE: Aula der Universität, Regina-Pacis-Weg 3, 53113 in Bonn

WHEN: at 19:30

DON’T MISS IT!!!!!!

Polarstern Cruise PS131 – ATWAICE (WALSEMA)


Polarstern cruise PS131 (ATWAICE) was a multidisciplinary expedition to investigate sea ice melting processes in the warming Arctic, ocean currents affecting nutrient supply for flora and fauna, ocean impacts on the melt of glaciers at Greenland’s east coast, and to deploy seismometers at the Aurora Vent Field. The expedition started on 28th June 2022 in Bremerhaven and led us to the Fram Strait, the marginal sea ice zone north-west of Svalbard, to fast ice at the east coast of Greenland and to Scoresby Sund, before returning to Bremerhaven on 17th August 2022.


Our working group also joined the expedition with atmospheric measurements using microwave radiometers (HATPRO and MiRAC-P) and radiosondes (weather balloons). The microwave radiometers faced the sky and primarily measured radiation emitted by the atmosphere (oxygen, water vapor, and liquid droplets). An additional sky camera consisting of a GoPro Hero 10 Black and an infrared sensor was mounted next to the radiometers on the guard rail of Polarstern to give us information about the sky conditions.
From the HATPRO data, we could already retrieve preliminary temperature and humidity profiles, as well as the total amount of water vapor (known as Integrated Water Vapour or IWV) and cloud liquid water path (LWP) with a high temporal resolution (1 second). Complementary to the radiometers, radiosondes give us high vertical but low temporal resolution of temperature and humidity profiles. An example of this is shown for an extraordinary warm and moist air intrusion event from 15th to 19th July 2022. IWV peaked at 35 kg m-2 (comparable to mid-latitude summer conditions), and the temperatures reached more than 18 °C at a few hundred meters altitude.
With a mirror construction designed by Pavel Krobot and Rainer H.-Lind and attached to the radiometers, we could also directly observe the radiation emitted by the sea ice and ocean. These measurements will later be compared to skin temperature measurements of the sea ice taken by an infrared camera to estimate the sea ice emissivity. Another GoPro is also mounted on the infrared camera to provide a visual context of the sea ice conditions.

Wetoo: how it all started

Why this project

Women in high-level scientific positions are strongly underrepresented in Western society compared to men. The project tackles this problem in a constructive way, which is not pointing just at claiming rights that should be granted, but showing how women with their diversity can genuinely improve the current scientific environment.

Some numbers

In recent times, the number of female students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has increased significantly, bringing to an almost equal representation of both sexes in the student body. Also, in media and previously dominated male fields, women occupy now a larger space. All of a sudden, it seems that the possibility for women to affirm themselves is open and walkable. But is it so?

FIgure 1: Degree of qualification in scientific disciplines specified by gender, between 2006 and 2016, at the university of Cologne, Germany. Source: https://www.portal.uni-koeln.de/datenundfakten.html

Despite the appearance, the presence of women in leading roles has not changed that much.  The percentage of women currently working in leading positions in academia is much lower than the corresponding number of men. However, this trend is not following the tendency observed in the student body up to the Ph.D. level (see Figure 1 for the University of Cologne).

But why is it so?

Why are there so few women in Western society pursuing scientific careers? Recently, a lot of research has tried to shed light on the main reasons for such discrepancies, finding various motivations (Corbett et al., 2015). Isolation, lack of role models and no sense of belonging, perception of the working place as competitive and hostile, unconscious and/or implicit biases driven by stereotypes, and incompatibility between the demands of work responsibilities and family life. All these causes often push women to choose family over work. Biases are still present also in the evaluation process, affecting the chances of a woman getting a position.

To what extent does each of these factors play a role? What do female scientists think about that? What’s their experience? Now is the time to listen to their voices and their stories.

Our goal

We believe that this video documentary can encourage young female researchers to believe in themselves and connect with other women, breaking the loneliness they face from gender discrimination. Moreover, these stories can inspire teenagers to pursue a scientific career.

All the info on the project

The project started from an idea discussed during a coffee break at the Institute of Geophysics and meteorology and a bunch of people helped in different ways to make that tiny idea evolve into a video documentary. So, even if the project was created and led by Claudia Acquistapace, and the final authors are Claudia Acquistapace and Valeria Lo Meo, we try here to mention all those that contributed to it: Thirza van Laar, Julia Munchowsky, Carolina Doran, Feray Ünlü, Rene’ Weißing, Anna Werma, Ute Gärtel, Susanne Crewell, Dario Valenzano, Miriam Janke, Annika Dähne, Nina Steinweg, Sigrun Korsching, Karin Boessenkool, Adam Polczyk, Fabio Magnifico, Jürgen Rees, Katrin Schrader, Markus Ritschel, Harmonie Jimenez, Selin Kandemir, Sabrina Schnitt.

It would not have been possible without the administrative support of Alma Bojcic, Ramize Iseni, Estelle Knoblauch, Annika Dahne, nor without the members of the gender equality commission that approved the project: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Langmann (Chairman), Univ.-Prof.in Dr. Martina Fuchs, Dr. Katrin Schrader, Dr. Jan Kruse, Silke Koppenhöfer, Dr. Ralf Müller, Viktoria Labus, Metin Serefoglu.

Many institutions were involved in the filming:

  • Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, Department of Geosciences
  • Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Gender Equality Commission of the University of Cologne
  • Referat Gender & Diversity Management  
  • University Administration Communications & Marketing
  • Institute for General Didactics and School Research
  • University of Cologne
  • Division 44.2 Travel cost center 
  • CECAD – Cluster of Excellence
  • Research Vessel Maria. S. Merian board

as well as some external partners:

The wetoo documentary on women in science was funded by:

  • The Financial Fund for the Implementation of the Statutory Equal Opportunity Mandate of the University of Cologne
  • The Atmospheric Water Cycle and Remote Sensing group from the University of Cologne
  • The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Finally, I want to especially thank all the female scientists who spent their time contributing to the project: Lena Pernas, Fernanda Pinheiro, Jane Reznick, Simone Morak, Eva Karatairi, Tamara Gigolashvili, Sabine Graf, and the ones that were interviewed in the documentary, for being so strong, direct and sincere: Natalia Kononenko, Hajar Maleki Anna Kathrin Schmidt-Verma, Claudia Acquistapace. Shaista Ilyas, Sanjay Mathur.

The backstage was curated by Tina Burg and Luciano Perbellini

Cloud radar observations in Ny-Ålesund (Svalbard): JOYRAD94’s shift is over – MiRAC-A took over

written by Mario Mech

Far in the North on Svalbard at the AWIPEV research station in Ny-Ålesund, the Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology operates a set of cloud remote sensing instruments in the framework of the (AC)3 DFG program. The idea of setting up instruments that far in the North is to learn more about Arctic clouds, like their structure, lifetime, or the role they play in the dramatic change of Arctic climate.
A key instrument of the setup is a cloud radar measuring at 94 GHz. Such a cloud radar shows the vertical structure of Arctic clouds by measuring the reflected signal send upwards in different levels (radar reflectivity).

The intensity of the reflected signal depends thereby on the size, amount, and shape of cloud and precipitation particles (hydrometeors) found in the atmosphere. Easily speaking, the more red the color the thicker the cloud or the more precipitation is present. In addition to the radar reflectivity, the cloud radar can measure the vertical motion of the hydrometeors and by that where up- or downward motion is present or distinct between clouds and precipitation.

During the last three years, JOYRAD94 has done a perfect job in Svalbard. But now it is time for some maintenance at the manufacturer. Therefore it needs to be de-installed, packed and shipped back to Germany. To do that, a team from our institute has traveled to the Arctic for two weeks. Since we definitely do not want to be without cloud radar measurements, our second cloud radar MiRAC-A, usually operated onboard the Polar 5 aircraft, has been shipped up there and will take over JOYRAD94’s job.
So today a huge crane took JOYRAD94 from the roof of the AWIPEV observatory building and lifted up MiRAC-A. It can make you quite nervous to see several hundred thousand euros hanging on four ropes. But the crane driver was a genius and it all went smoothly. After a bit of screwing, drilling, fixing, and configuring, MiRAC-A was set up and continued the important job JOYRAD94 did the last years – collecting data on Arctic clouds.

Warm Air Intrusion and Atmospheric River event opened the HALO-(AC)3 campaign

The goal of the HALO-(AC)3 campaign is to gain a better understanding of the air mass transformations within a Warm Air Intrusion (WAI) and Cold Air Outbreak (CAO). During a WAI, warm and moist air is transported into the Arctic. During a CAO cold and dry air is transported out of the Arctic.

On the 11th of March, the research aircraft HALO from the German Airspace Centre arrived from Oberpfaffenhofen in Kiruna. HALO is able to fly at higher altitudes (up to 15km) and reach longer distances (up to 10 000km). Therefore, it is able to monitor these systems.

Just arrived in Kiruna, HALO spent the following 5 days in the air. Luckily, a WAI (day 1 – 3) and an Atmospheric River (AR) (day 4 – 5) were expected. Atmospheric Rivers are long narrow bands which transport a huge amount of water vapor. They are responsible for 80-90% of the poleward moisture transport. The understanding in how far ARs influence the Arctic climate system needs further investigation. Therefore, we will use measurements taken during the HALO-(AC)3 campaign.   

Before HALO takes off for the measurement flights, instruments have to be checked in the early morning.  Subsequently, there is a pre-briefing during which it is decided if the planned flight can be carried out or not. After that, the instruments are checked again, HALO is refuelled, the crew members take their seats and the doors will close. HALO is ready for takeoff!

On the 13th of March, HALO set off on its first research flight with 7 scientists, 2 pilots and a technician on board. The goal was to capture the WAI coming from the Atlantic Ocean towards the Arctic. This WAI remained for 3 days over the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. The changes of this air mass were investigated during these days. First measurements have shown that the near-surface air temperature was 20°C higher than expected. But not only the high temperatures, but also the height of the tropopause and the type of precipitation with rain over sea ice, was exceptional for this time of the year.

Following this WAI, an AR followed. This AR lasted for two days. Compared to the WAI on the previous days, the AR brought more moisture and warmer air into the Arctic. The warmer air and also the rain caused the melting of sea ice north of Svalbard.

March 2022: A strange month in the Atacama Desert

The Atacama desert is one of the driest places in the world. However, most of March 2022 experienced humidity, clouds, and even rainfall. You don’t believe us? Here, we collected some evidence of this strange month in the Atacama.

Rainfall bands observed between Salar de Huasco and Pica, Tarapacá Region, Chile. The photo was taken by the PhD student Bárbara Vargas-Machuca, on March 9, 2022, during an excursion funded by the Collaborative Research Center 1211: Earth – Evolution at the dry limit.

In the middle of this dry desert, rain bands were observed on March 9 2022, near a location called Pica (20ºS, Tarapacá Region), around 1100 m above sea level and in the core of the Atacama. During that day, between 0.8 and 5.2 mm were recorded across the desert in different weather stations, with some thunderstorms, showers, drizzle, and plenty of clouds.

On March 16 2022, storms developed once again in the Atacama, this time near the major city of Calama (22.5ºS, Antofagasta Region), producing heavy rainfall, floods, and some damages on houses and roads. In less than 2 hours, rainfall accumulated between 1.2 and 7.2 mm in the city. The next pictures were taken at the city airport (El Loa) and show the presence of a huge convective system (left) and rain bands (right). In fact, the roof of the city airport was damaged due to the downpour.

Storm developing close to El Loa Airport at 22:20 UTC on March 16, 2022. Source: DGAC.

The next day, on March 17 2022, new storms developed with even more intense rainfall, accumulating up to 15 mm near the city of Diego de Almagro (26ºS, Atacama Region). However, the story does not end here. In addition to the thunderstorms, a huge sandstorm was observed crossing the Atacama valleys, engulfing several towns (see the next picture) and capturing the attention of the whole country. Even more unusual than rainfall, sandstorms of this magnitude are rarely seen in the Atacama.

Sandstorm approaching Diego de Almagro on March 17, 2022. Source: @radiocoquimbo

We know that any kind of storms and rainfall are originated from water vapor. Because the Atacama is so dry in terms of humidity, we usually don’t observe any hydrometers in its inner core. However, the events described in this post highlight the presence of more humidity than normal. What we do not know in this matter, for example, is how much water vapor excess was observed? Why the month of March 2022 was more humid than expected in the Atacama? Where does this humidity come from? How the humidity is spread in the desert and interact with the topography? Thus, some questions remain unanswered yet, but future works in our working group will try to unravel this mystery.

Long-awaited first research flight: Joint adventure with three aircraft!

What a successful day! P5, P6 and HALO had their first joint research flight on Sunday!

If you ask yourself “What is HALO? And what is special about a joint flight?” then read on…

First, let’s start with something you already know from the previous posts: P5 and P6 are polar aircraft, which participate in the HALO-(AC)³ campaign and which are stationed in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen. The instruments belonging to the University of Cologne, namely the radar MiRAC and the microwave radiometer HATPRO, are installed on P5, which is a remote sensing aircraft. Contrary, P6 is equipped with in-situ instruments recording atmospheric parameters and cloud particles near the aircraft. Thus, P5 is mainly flying above the clouds at an altitude of around 3 km, whereas P6 is flying at lower altitudes directly through the clouds. Joint flight activities of the two polar aircraft provide in-situ and remote sensing observations of a lot of different parameters from the same cloud at the same time!

HALO at the airport in Kiruna, Sweden. (Photo: Henning Dorff)

Next, HALO comes into play. HALO stands for “High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft” and is operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). HALO carries remote sensing instruments similar to P5, but is able to fly at higher altitudes of about 10 km and travel much longer distances. During HALO-(AC)³ it is stationed in Kiruna, the northernmost city of Sweden, together with other scientists from our group. The aim is to observe how air masses change in the Arctic by measuring the temperature, humidity, cloudiness or aerosol concentration along the wind direction.

As often as possible, joint flights with all three aircraft will be realized, which is really difficult to coordinate! Another difficulty are the bad weather conditions in Longyearbyen making flights with the polar aircraft impossible. And sometimes the different platforms are interested in different clouds or air masses.

During the first joint flight, the flight conditions were very calm! Our instruments worked well and observed precipitating cloud structures over sea ice and open water. In one of the following posts we will have a first look at the observations!

View over broken sea ice from P5.

If you are interested in a video diary with short daily updates on the work routine in Longyearbyen, just follow AWIexpedition on Instagram!

(AC)3 AISAM Arctic Atacama Atmospheric boundary layer AWI Bremenhaven cloud radars COST HALO HALO-(AC)³ HATPRO Moisture Conveyor Belt Ny-Ålesund Polar 5 PolarStern Precipitation PROBE COST Action STEM Water Vapor Wetoo women in science

The race is on: Polar 5 and 6 arrived in Longyearbyen!

Now the time has come: both aircraft, Polar 5 and 6, have arrived in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, yesterday afternoon!

Arrival of Polar 5 in Longyearbyen.

The aircraft belatedly started their ferry in Bremen on Thursday morning and had a stop for refueling in Tromsø over night. After the arrival in Longyearbyen, all hands were needed to unload the aircraft and prepare them for the first scientific flight.

Polar 5 after the landing at the airport Longyearbyen.

For Sunday, the first research flight is planned – provided that the weather condition is good enough for takeoff and landing! That means, that the cloud base has to be high enough to not directly fly into a low level cloud. This would bear the risk of a bad view and freezing of the propellers. And we do not want to risk a crash!

Hopefully, the plans can be realized. An update on the first flights will follow soon!

To stay up to date, check Twitter for the latest information! #HALOAC3 #AC3TR #MiRACradar #polar5 #Svalbard

On the way to the airport.

(AC)3 AISAM Arctic Atacama Atmospheric boundary layer AWI Bremenhaven cloud radars COST HALO HALO-(AC)³ HATPRO Moisture Conveyor Belt Ny-Ålesund Polar 5 PolarStern Precipitation PROBE COST Action STEM Water Vapor Wetoo women in science

Installation of the radar and radiometer on P5

Last week we installed the radar MiRAC and radiometer HATPRO on the Polar 5. The whole installation took us three days, but the following time lapse video gives you an overall impression in only two minutes!

The video first shows the installation of the radar MiRAC which is covered by a belly pod below the aircraft. Then the screwing together of the HATPRO is shown.

MiRAC is a frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) radar, an active remote sensing instrument, operating at 94 GHz with an additional microwave radiometer, which is a passive remote sensing instrument, recording at 89 GHz. The radar is hanging below the aircraft and is protected by a belly bod. The bottom of the pod has a hole so that the antennas of the instrument are able to transmit and receive microwave radiation. The transmitted signal is reflected by cloud droplets or the surface and received by the antennas again. These signals help us to detect clouds and to interpret their microphysical properties.

The radiometer HATPRO is installed inside the aircraft and is looking through a hole in the ground of the aircraft. HATPRO measures microwave radiation emitted by the surface and atmosphere below Polar 5. These observations contain information on the atmospheric humidity, precipitation, liquid water in clouds, as well as on the surface.

HATPRO inside the P5.

After the installation, it was time for a ground test, during which all instruments inside the P5 were connected to the aircraft electricity one after the other. Unfortunately, this did not work out as planned and after some minutes no electricity was available in the aircraft anymore. Nevertheless, the engineers repaired everything and the ground test could be completed successfully the very next day!

Before taking off to the Arctic, the instruments had to be tested during the flight as well. Thus, the first short flight took place over the North Sea and Helgoland. Luckily, all instruments on board worked properly!

Communication during the flight is only possible with a head set.

After the success in Bremen, we had to quickly pack our luggages. At the beginning of the week the great journey to the Arctic started. After a stop in Oslo and Tromsø, we arrived in Longyearbyen on Tuesday! Since then we are waiting for the Polar 5 and 6 and use the time to explore the area and plan the first research flights. We expect the aircraft to land in a few hours and will give an update on the arrival soon!

Great view over the fjord.

To stay up to date, check Twitter for the latest information! #HALOAC3 #AC3TR #MiRACradar #polar5 #Svalbard

(AC)3 AISAM Arctic Atacama Atmospheric boundary layer AWI Bremenhaven cloud radars COST HALO HALO-(AC)³ HATPRO Moisture Conveyor Belt Ny-Ålesund Polar 5 PolarStern Precipitation PROBE COST Action STEM Water Vapor Wetoo women in science