Thursday, December 29, 2011

The MJO returns (plus chicken feet and turtle soup)


The strong MJO event I had posted about previously was over indonesia around Dec. 5th when it quickly dissipated. Perfect timing for me to catch some good waves while I was in Bali! The signal rapidly returned this week in almost the same position. You can see this progression traced out by the loop in phases 4-5 on the RMM index.


It's not clear whether these two events are related in any way. Good arguments could be made either way. From both figures you can get a sense of how hard it is to define a "typical" MJO event. In spite of the sharp spectral signature of the MJO in observations, the initiation and progression of each event varies substantially. This is part of why studying the MJO is so challenging.

Based on the recommendation of some locals I found the area of Chinatown with the "hawker" stalls. There is a street that is especially known for its street food, as well as a large complex where the second floor is full of hawker stalls that all specialize in one thing or another. The food here is very cheap so I was able to gorge myself and try lots of new things.

For brunch I started off with friend black carrot cake. The "carrot cake" is not like what you think of. it reminded me of the "rice cake" that I found all over South Korea that had a texture just like mochi.



Then I decided it was time to try chicken feet! I've talked to many people about this, because I've always suspected that these would be disgusting given that there can't be much, if any, meat on them. There seemed to be some version of "chicken claw" at every food stall so it seemed like a good time to take the plunge.



My suspicions were correct, they are disgusting. Just skin, bone and ligaments. I can't fathom how they came to be so popular all across asia. I made a friend who ate with me during this experience. He was chinese but had grown up in Australia and had a thick accent. He thought they were gross too.

Among a couple other interesting things I found one stall advertising turtle soup! Let me first say that I like turtles. Turtles are really cool animals. I also think whales are amazing and majestic creatures, but I have no problem eating them as long as their populations aren't in trouble. So don't be a hater just cause I like to try unusual stuff.



Anyway, the soup was really good. Broth was clear, like chicken broth, but didn't taste at all like chicken broth. I found it hard to find something to compare it to. The turtle meat was similar to crocodile meat. The texture was in between chicken and fish, but closer to fish. I tried to ask the lady what type of turtle was in the soup, but she never gave me a straight answer. I saw an ad for her stall down the hall that had a picture of a turtle, so I probably whatever this one is called.



Notice that they also serve frog soup! I went back to this area for dinner. At first I wanted to try the crispy BBQ duck I see hanging at shops but I ended up getting a noodle dish with pork dumplings that was excellent.



I decided to get a dessert and stopped at a stall selling all kinds of ice cream and "jelly". I was a little confused about what everything was and ordered something with "sea coconut", also known as coco de mer. It wasn't bad, but it was odd. Should have gone with the lotus seed bun.


There were so many other things I really wanted to try but didn't get the chance. At least it gives me some goals to shoot for the next time I'm travelling in Asia!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More than enough time in Singapore

So I leave Singapore tomorrow to go back to the US. This time I’ve really gotten to explore Singapore and seen some interesting stuff, but I find myself wishing I had planned better so that I could have travelled up into Malaysia for a day or two. I had worked out an itinerary to shoot up to Kuala Lampur this morning, visit the Batu Caves and take the overnight train back so that I could make it to the airport a few hours before my flight left. After further consideration, I realized too many things could go wrong and the risk of missing my flight was too great. So here’s my reflection of my time in Singapore (SG).

Yesterday I decided to visit the island of Sentosa, which lies just South of the main island of SG. I knew the island was mainly resorts and a theme park, but it also had beaches I could walk around on. I underestimated how much of a tourist trap this whole island is. I took the overpriced ($28!) cable car with a family from India shouting at each other the whole way. The views were decent, but the ride only lasted 2-3 minutes. As soon as you step off the cable car you are shuffled into a gift shop where you can buy a memento from your 2-3 minute ride. After you pass that hurdle you are surrounded by “attractions”. Maybe you want to pay $3 to look at a statue or pay $30 to ride a zip line, or maybe you just need to see another gift shop.

The only thing on the island that doesn’t cost money is the shuttle bus service. I found my way to the bus stop and waited 20 minutes for the bus. I was examining the route map and saw several stops, such as the “Ranger Station”, where it was not clear why the bus would stop there. The bus was crowded and noisy so I got off a few stops down the road. I noticed a sidewalk and thought maybe I could just walk to the beach. However, once I got off and started walking, not only did I realize there was nothing around to justify putting a bus stop there, but the sidewalk also came to a dead end so that you had to walk in the road dodging the buses to get anywhere!

I’ve never been to a less “walker-friendly” place. The signs were difficult to interpret and sidewalks appeared and disappeared at random. I walked by several high-class resorts and views of golf courses. Eventually I had to give up. I been walkign for 45 minutes and wasn't any closer to anything that looked like a beach. I walked up to one of the resorts to ask how I could just leave the island. Luckily, they disregarded the way I was dressed and assumed I was a guest at this $500/night resort. They had an hourly shuttle that went back and forth to the main shopping district of SG. 

The flagrant commercialism and sterile landscape of man-made attractions and golf courses on Sentosa island seems to be a caricature of SG itself. You can never seem to get away from the shopping malls. Even areas advertised as parks and “nature walks” are never too far from a shopping center. Everything worth seeing in SG was built with the sole purpose to get people to come see it. If I was into architecture I might get more out seeing all the unique buildings, but I like seeing things that have some natural beauty on their own. Overall, Singapore has been a forgettable experience, with a few exceptions…

I unintentionally stumbled on an open jam session last night at a bar called Blujaz. I was able to get on stage to play a bit and stayed at the bar drinking with the other musicians until after the place closed. It was a great night with a spectacular group of musicians. Many of them were expats and have been playing professionally in Singapore and Malaysia for a decade or so. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of jazz organ music, and the drummer at this jam has played with many of the great jazz organists when he lived in the US, so his stories were especially interesting. I host a similar jam in Fort Collins once a week and when I started I thought it was something unique. After last night’s experience, (plus a similar one in Tokyo last summer) I’m realizing that this type of thing is very common, and it makes me happy to see that.

Eating Dim Sum everyday has been great. Here was my lunch on Wednesday, which consisted of prok buns, eggplant, pumpkin cake, and almond "tea":



Staying next to china-town was an excellent choice! I also ventured into the area with middle eastern restaurants for some delicious food and a hookah tuesday night with a friend from the hostel.

I also really enjoyed the botanical gardens. I'm not usually amazed by flowers, but the orchard garden was remarkable.




There was also a ginger garden, which was fascinating. I never knew that so many plants (like bananas!) were related to ginger. Ever since I worked at the Ithaca Beer Co. I've always loved strong ginger soda. The more it burns my throat, the better! The Schweps ginger ale in SG is especially strong, but unfortunately its hard to find stuff like this in the states.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Bali



Merry Christmas! (a.k.a. Happy Holidays)

I slacked off on the blog writing for a while, sorry for any inconvenience that may have caused. Right now it’s the end of the day on Christmas. I spent the morning surfing, then I visited the Shell Museum in the afternoon. For dinner I went to a restaurant and ate shark fin soup and Kung Pow Squid and washed it down with a Mai Tai. Afterwards I struck up a conversation with a German guy who has been living in Australia for the last two years. Relaly interesting guy, we exchanged stories for the next 2 hours or so and downed 4 beers each! Here’s a picture of the aftermath,



As for the rest of the trip there’s a lot I could talk about, but I’ll just give a quick recap of some stuff that happened. I’ll try my best to make a nother post about my next 4 days before I leave for Colorado. The rest you’ll just have to infer from Facebook pictures.

Food

Bali has been great! I’ve eaten some great food, but the best was at a middle-eastern style place that served things like kebabs and gyros. I got some lamb schwarma that was spectacular! The squid I had tonight was a Chinese dish and was awesome. Here’s a picture:


The Indonesian food that I’ve eat has been mostly just fried rice and maybe some chicken on a stick covered in peanut sauce. I never really got a sense of how Indonesian food stand sout from all the other Asian genres of cooking. I think I can blame the tourism for that.

People

The people of Bali are very nice. I spent most of the night talking with the German guy about the culture here. By US standards the people here are unbelievably poor. Some make $80 a month for an entire family and consider it good money. Some of the tourists here can be very rude and to think they have to put up with that while watching the same people spend an amount equivalent to their monthly income every day. The population is mostly Hindu and the temples demand money for certain occasions which can wreck havoc on families finances, but they still pay. It would be nice to befriend more of the locals and learn about how they cope with this lifestyle as well as about the rampant corruption, but I have shit to do (like my PhD).

Drving

I’ve been driving a scooter around a lot and I’m realizing the traffic never goes away. It’s a rare occasion when you can really yank on the throttle. The road here is insane! But at the same time you rarely see accidents on the road. There are no posted speed limits. The lines are the roads are merely a suggestion. Horns are used to let someone know you are passing them, so you wind up using it every 20 seconds or so. Given all this chaos everyone on the road is a very respectful driver. If the roads were anything like this in the USA people be going postal. Most of the time when the traffic is “stop and go” you have to put your feet down to stabilize the bike, which puts your feet inches away from rolling car tires. Pretty scary at first, but now I would consider myself a pro!



Surfing

I’ve been surfing a bit, but I still have a long way to go. My arms get tired from all the paddling so I really have to watch out for the currents. I spent a couple days down in southern Bali on the Bukit peninsula, which has many world-famous breaks such as Uluwatu and Padang Padang. I’m nowhere close to being able to surf those, but it was cool to see other people showing off their skills. I came back up to an area called Seminyak that has better waves for me. I caught a lot of good waves over the last couple days. I think I need to buy a board to keep at my parents house in Oregon so I can keep my skills up when I visit them.

Now some bad news…

1. I lost my GoPro Camera!!!!

I was so sad. I put it on my head when Steph and I were surfing at Kuta beach, but when I wiped out on a wave it fell off and I couldn’t find it. The visibility of the water was actually very good, but the waves kept making the water cloudy and pushing everything around, so all hope was lost. That thing was so great, I may buy another one when I get back.

2. I got robbed by the Balinese Police!!!

This is actually a very common thing. They set up to see you do something anyone would do on a busy street that is unfamiliar. Maybe you don’t use your blinker or maybe you run a yellow light. In my case I crossed an uncontrolled intersection onto a one-way street going the wrong way. I saw the small “Do Not Enter” while I was in the middle of the intersection and I immediately started to stop, but I had too much momentum and rolled into the street. It wasn’t really a safety issue because there weren’t that many cars on the road, giving me plenty of room to turn around, but a cop flagged me down and went through the ritual. The last part involves a different cop telling me they needed to write me a ticket and would need to go to court and likely pay the maximum fine of ~$30, but if I paid him ~$10 he would “make it all go away”.  We paid the man and went on our way, but a fellow from the UK who had also been caught in the trap started arguing with them. When we finally left his bike was still there but he was nowhere to be seen.

3. I stayed in a sketchy place

Ok, I know I have control over this, but when I was looking for a room, I couldn’t find anything under $45/night and then I finally found this place for $12/night. The rooms looked fine. They had hot water and internet, so I thought I had found a decent place. After unpacking my stuff I started noticing how unsecure the rooms were. I looked up some reviews and one couple mentioned that the cleaning people would steal small amounts of money from them each day, but the management refused to do anything. I asked the manager this morning if anyone ever got stuff stolen from their rooms and replied with an enthusiastic “yes!”. He was smiling and chuckling as he said this. I repeated myself a few times to make sure he understood what I was asking and I still got the same response.

I put a small amount of money in the pocket of one of my shorts to see if they take it, but they never did! I also was able to buy a cable lock for my laptop so I didn’t have to carry it with me everywhere. For my last night, I found a great hostel with nice facilities and ice-cold AC. This place is brand new, but they could use more clean places like this in Bali. 

So that's probably it for my Bali blogging. Stayed tuned for all the pictures I'll be posting to Facebook once I get a connection that can handle it. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My last days on DG

I left Diego Garcia a few days ago and had some mixed feelings about it. I met a few great people that I will almost certainly never see again, which is a bummer. I also had just got to the point where I felt at home. I knew where everything was and how everything worked. I got to know the people who ran the dining facilities and the marina. I knew all the rules about what you could wear and when you could go places. I knew when mongolian grill night and make your own pizza night happened at each of the restaurants. But like all good things, it had come to an end.

Every day for the last few days on DG I went to the marina and rented a "stand-up paddle-board" or SUP. I have actually seen people doing this in the past at the beach and then riding waves back in, but I always thought it looked kind of awkward. My friend DK in Western Australia has been doing this a bit lately and it sounded like fun so I tried it out. I really enjoyed it. They let you go about a mile off-shore, and there's plenty of shallow places where you can stop and look down at the fish and corral. The great thing about SUP is that you can get a decent core workout, but it can also be really relaxing if you want it to be. Here's some video I took with my GoPro



Another cool thing that happened at the end of my stay was that we got a tour of the GEODSS site, which monitors stuff in orbit for the military (mostly geostationary stuff). The telescopes they have there are amazing. They are mostly automated while they are scanning the sky for any changes in satellite orbits. They didn't let us take pictures of the cool stuff, but here's a photo from outside the facility.



I was also pretty happy to move on from the island. I was tired of slow internet and crappy food. As soon as we got into Singapore it instantly felt like I was travelling again. It was so easy to feel at home in Diego Garcia. You never had to worry about converting between currencies or whether it was worth it to ship stuff back home or what the ATM fees would be. Now we are in Bali, bartering with cab drivers and zig-zagging on a scooter through congested streets.

Here's a picture of the 3 people on our shift; Steph, Steve Cohn and myself:


All-in-all it was a great experience for me and a great thing for my career studying the weather and climate in the Tropics! I guess there's a small chance I could find myself back on Diego Garcia for a future field project. Maybe I'll even have a bunch of grad students I can send out there too!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My ride in the NOAA P3 Hurricane Hunter


If you ask me what the main piece of the DYNAMO project is, I would say the 4 main ISS sites, including Diego Garcia, Male and two ships, the Revelle and the Mirai. There are some other land sites that are contributing data as well as the usual satellites. There is also a couple planes that have been flying in the vicinity of the DYNAMO array to help collect data over the open ocean. The one that has been working out of Diego Garcia is a P3 owned by NOAA that is usually based in Tampa to investigate hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The team of crew and scientists extended us an invitation to ride on the plane several times, but there were a couple reasons why this didn't sound very appealing to us. Most of all, the flights are looooong. I'm talking about 9 hours in a tube. Don't get me wrong, the first 4 hours would be great and most of the time you would able to walk around and do as you please. However, after the initial fascination wears off I'm not sure I want to be stuck in a plane that long with nothing to do. We also had balloons to launch. Our supervisor, Steve Cohn, didn't think the long hours of the flight was anything to worry about so he decided to go. He enjoyed it a lot, but he was able to sleep through half of it. So then last week we got word that there were two seats open for the last P3 flight of DYNAMO. The purpose was to calibrate a few instruments and would only be 4 hours long, so Steph and I decide to take advantage of the opportunity.  

This had to be one of the coolest things I've ever done. At first we thought that Steph and I would have to trade off sitting in the cockpit, but it turns out they have this little bench in the cockpit that can double as a seat, and since there was very little turbulence that day they let me sit there. Here's a picture of the seat:


Not the safest spot, but probably one of the best views.

For the first part of the flight we criss-crossed over the island to calibrate the altimeter. We were flying very low over the island so it was a great opportunity to take pictures, like this one



Most every picture has a rainbow in it like this one. Afterwards we spent a lot of time flying around 200m over the ocean surface. We had to wear life jackets at all times, because at that altitude there’s no time to correct the plane if it starts to drop. There were even a few times where they dropped down to 100m!!! I got plenty of cool cloud pictures. Here's a good one where you can see the rain shaft,



Another part of the calibration process involved doing “pitch” and “yaw” oscillations. This involved just making the plane go up and down over and over again, reversin direction every 5-10 seconds. It was a recipe for motion sickness (Steph lost her lunch). It felt just like a roller coaster. 

We also got to help drop these oceanographic instruments through a tube that launched them out the bottom of the plane. Here's a video of the P3 crew dropping two kinds of these. The first one is very cheap but the second cost around $1500 each, and they only work 2 out of 3 times!!!

video


This was all great, but the coolest part was when they let each of us take control of the plane! 

I should say that it was for no more than 2 minutes, but it was still awesome. I expected the plane to respond quickly but there was a big lag between when you moved the controls and when you felt the plane move. The controls were also super sensitive. The only thing we did was make the pane go up and down and then just try to keep it level, but even that small task was much harder than I anticipated. This is a very old plane that requires 3 people in the cockpit to operate it, and some of these guys have been flying this plane, or other planes just like it, for over 10 years so I have a lot of appreciation for them and the fact that they routinely fly this through hurricanes!

I'm actually writing this from our hotel in Singapore. We had a really great day here and I need to write about it plus I have some other things that happened back in Diego Garcia that I'd like to make a blog post about. Things are happening too fast for me to document them! Luckily I've been diligent about taking photos everywhere I go, so stay tuned!





Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coconuts, crabs and kayaks

Before I get distracted writing about other stuff, lets talk about the MJO for a second.


In the above plot the current state of the MJO is in phase 5 and you can see the strength is diminishing by how the line has started to move back towards the center. The farther away the line is from the center circle means the MJO is stronger and more coherent. Phase 5 coincides with enhanced rainfall over Indonesia and more suppressed rainfall over the Indian Ocean where I am.


You can see this somewhat in the hovmueller diagram above. The most current time is at the bottom of the plot. The DYNAMO array is around 72 E which is on the edge of those orange colors. The orange/red colors mean there is less convective activity and less rainfall.


This third plot shows this even better. Diego Garcia is right at the eastern edge of the red blob. The other cool thing about this particular plot is that the blue area, which is the wet/rainy part of the MJO, resembles a pattern that was found in a famous paper by Adrian Gill. This is sometimes referred to as a coupled Rossby/Kelvin wave pattern, with a kelvin wave to the east and a vortex on each side of the equator to the west that makes up the Rossby wave component. If you were to filter this same data for Kelvin and Rossby waves you would see a Kelvin wave around 150 E and a Rossby wave signal around 100 E. Here's an image of the steady-state response to an equatorial heating in that Gill model:


So enough about that. Last week Steph and I, along with our friend Jesus, went to the old coconut plantation to check out the old buildings. It reminded even more of the set of the show "Lost", because these buildings were in use in the early 70's. Most of the buildings were barely there, just a few concrete walls.


Here's our friend Jesus, who works with the NOAA P3 plane for DYNAMO. His main job is as a scientist at UC Irvine.


Some walls had this cool look to them. My first though was that it was some type of rock, but after seeing this same thing out on the reef while snorkeling, I'm pretty sure its corral.


I think this next picture is a building of a prison. It's hard to tell what anything was used for, but this one had three cells with bars on the windows and heavy steel doors.


 Here's what I assume is the plantation manager's house. There was also a church next to this other buildings labeled stuff like "bakery" and "post office".


This is my favorite picture that I took. This is an old stove that is in a building directly behind the main house, but not attached to it.


Here's a coconut crab. This wasn't even the biggest one we saw. When they are small they live in shells like hermit crabs, which is probably why their legs seem to be set farther forward on their body compared to other crabs I've seen here. These things were EVERYWHERE at the plantation. You had watch where you were stepping. Most of the land crabs move very fast, but these things move very slow and awkwardly. On the way back from the plantation these things were scattered on the road. There was one about every 10 feet or so. I managed to not kill a single crab with the car! It was hard though, because unlike the other types of crabs that would scuttle away, these things would walk towards the truck as we were driving at them!!!


Here's a cool plane wreck near the plantation.


And here's the three of us watching the sunset. 


I'd say this was a pretty good day.

One more thing, Steph and I did a doubles kayak race yesterday. They would do four sets of four boats at a time. We came in first out of the four boats, but we came in fourth or fifth over all. We started out behind the other boats, but in the end we were able to recover. I strapped my GoPro camera to head to capture our victory. You can watch the video here on YouTube.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gender Inequality


What happens when you have ten times more males than females on an isolated island in the Indian Ocean?

I'm not actually sure if there's 10x more males, but that seemed like a good rough estimate.  I don't think any of us really thought about the potential consequences of an absurd gender ratio paired with isolation. This has had some major implications for Stephanie, who is also here for DYNAMO and is a master's student in my research group in Colorado. After our first week Steph and I would joke about how great place this place is for any girl with low self esteem. Steph has been getting a lot of attention ever since we landed. When she goes to the food court by herself she is treated to enthusiastic compliments and excellent service. At the bars at night she is approached by multiple men at once with others trying to catch her eye from a distance. The frenzy of attention can be overwhelming, but I'm sure all of us could agree that sometimes it can be nice to feel appreciated.

I can guarantee that most of this is completely harmless, however there was a recent incident that was a bit unsettling. Steph received two disturbing phone calls in which the caller immediately spouted some lewd and vulgar requests. Steph instantly hung up and informed the British authorities. Obtaining someone's phone number on the island is ridiculously easy, so this man could be anyone. Steph recognized a distinct filipino accent which helped narrow it down a little.

The two of us switched rooms and shifted the work schedule so she wouldn't have to be alone at the DYNAMO site at night. Luckily the police were able to trace the calls and informed us today that they found the man and he admitted to making the calls. I realize this sort of thing happens all over the world all the time, but I have to wonder if maybe the extreme isolation and imbalance in the gender ratio played a part in leading this man to think making these calls was a good idea.

On a lighter note...

I had a great snorkeling experience the other day. I took a video with my GoPro and posted it here on YouTube. I had heard from a few people that the reef in front of the CPO club was the best and they were absolutely right! The visibility was the best I've seen yet. 

I also had a chance yesterday to visit Turtle Cove. If you imagine the lagoon in the shape of a footprint with the toes being the part that opens up into the ocean, Turtle Cove is at the heel. We saw 4 or 5 turtles swimming around but they weren't close enough to get a good look at them. Here's a picture of me on the observation deck looking north-ish.




Here's another picture from the deck looking south-ish



I'll make an effort to get back to talking about the weather in the next post.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The one time I dont have my camera...

This is easily the coolest thing I've seen here on Diego Garcia. Some of you might not believe this story, and I wouldn't blame you. I have no proof since I didn't have a camera. You're just gonna have to take my word for it.

To preface the story, let me tell you how I spent most of the day. Got up at 4:30am to make sure I was at the site to launch a balloon at 5:15am. After that I spent most of the morning and afternoon sitting in the crate working on some research and taking advantage of the "good" internet connection there. Later on I went back to the hotel and kept working. Eventually I started thinking about how much time I was spending indoors and what kind of things I could be missing.

Around 4pm I went to the gym to lift and run a bit, but afterward I was feeling pretty good so I decided to go run some more on the mountain bike trails. After a mile or so of zig zagging trails I came to "Cannon Point", which is right on the Indian Ocean. I still had a lot of energy so I kept running down the beach on ocean side of the atoll. The only other time I had been here it was high tide, which made running down the beach impossible.

After another half mile running on the sand I noticed some tracks in the sand coming out of the water that were obviously made by a large sea turtle. As I got closer I realized there was only one set, so the turtle had still be on land laying her eggs. Just as I got up the tracks the turtle emerged from the bushes. This thing was huge! I would say the carapace (i.e. dorsal portion of the shell) alone was 3 feet long.

I was standing less than 6 feet away as I watched it crawl back into the ocean. It seemed pretty exhausted and kept stopping every few feet to rest. The area where it had made a nest was a maze of limbs and roots, so I imagine it was a pretty difficult spot to get to and dig. Its body also seemed very heavy out of the water and considering  that it only had flippers to push itself along I can imagine it must be a physically taxing task.

I was totally in awe of what I had just seen and felt pretty lucky to have seen this. After doing some reading I now know that this was a green sea turtle. I found this webpage talking about the two types of sea turtles found on Diego Garcia and the author also include some pictures of the same event I witnessed. I also saw here that when green sea turtles are mating the female can come ashore as much as 5 times every 15 days! So while what I saw is probably pretty common, its still something I might not ever see again.

After the turtle was gone I went and looked around the nest area and stood there for awhile thinking about how cool this all was. Then just before I continued my run down the beach I looked out over the Indian Ocean towards the horizon, and what did I see? A F***ING DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!

What an awesome day! The only thing missing was someone to share it with.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Buried Treasure


Sometime last week Steph and I set out to follow the treasure map left to us by Gavin, one of our predecessors (who just got engaged, congrats!). We kept trying to go to the spot during high tide which made it difficult, but we finally managed to be at the site during low tide and set off to find the treasure.


After awhile of pacing back and forth on the beach we found it! They did a good job of hiding the stuff, but unfortunately they underestimated how high the tide could get and everything in the bags was soaked! 

 We got it all out of the bags and dried out. The bags included these hilarious Winona Rider postcards, no idea where the guys found these. My bag had a DVD of a movie called "The Spanish Apartment". It seems like a great movie, but half way through my computer couldn't read the disc, so I'll have to finish watching this when I get back to the states.

Gavin also knows how much I hate the "Family Circus" comics that you see in newspapers everywhere. I think they are the lamest comic strip ever written. However, if you go back and read the ones from 70's they're actually not that bad.

Anyway, Gavin included this article about a petition to remove the Family Circus from a paper in St. Lious, which I find to be hilarious. Thanks for thinking of us Gavin!

Another interesting experience I had awhile back was to try something called Dragon Fruit. This weird looking fruit is native in North America, but I had never heard of it before. I ate some on the plane from Hong Kong to Singapore and really liked it, and then found out they had it here at the local grocery store. I find that it tastes a lot like a melon, maybe like honeydew, but also is somewhat citrusy. 


We got a wind surfing lesson the other day from some air fore guys even though we couldn't go out on the water. It looks like so much fun and I really hope we get to try it out before we leave. It also seems like it might be pretty difficult to learn when you first start out. 


Here's me messing around with one of the bigger sails. It was really hard to control! The other guys said they typically have to use a special harness when using the sails like this.



Our post-DYNAMO travel plans are looking a little unsure. There has been a lot of uncertainty for all the flights coming and going on the island throughout the whole DYNAMO project, however there seems to be more hangups than usual in flight plans. Our supervisor, Heather, was hoping to leave today but found out that she is not scheduled to fly out for another 5 days. There's no guarantee that she'll make it on that flight though, and if she doesn't make that one she'll have to wait until we're scheduled to leave on Dec. 15th.

Our current plans are to fly to Bali after we get to singapore. Our flights are non-refundable so if we miss them we might just be stuck in singapore. This will be really bad for Steph because she was planning on flying straight out of Bali to the US without a connection in Singapore. She is also leaving much earlier than me to go spend xmas with her family. I have more flexibility since I have to come back to Singapore to get my flight back to the states, but it would still be a bummer to miss out on Bali. I recently learned about a cheap ferry to Sumatra from Singapore that might be a good alternative destination. Our other idea is to take the train up to Kuala Lumpur. If you have suggestions of other places to see that aren't too far from Singapore please let me know!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

There she blows!

In the wake of the MJO there is a strong low-level flow blowing from west to east know as the "westerly wind burst" (WWB). Here on Diego Garcia it's pretty obvious that the WWB is upon us. I hung out with some windsurfers the other day who were itching to get out on the water because of how strong the wind was. Westerly wind is not ideal for windsurfing in the lagoon, but the conditions yesterday were good enough to get some decent windsurfing in anyway. However, due to a recent fishing boat accident that killed a couple people the officials haven't allowed anyone to go out fishing or windsurfing.

The upper-level wind above the WWB is usually in the opposite direction as the low-level wind. I took this time-lapse video this afternoon to try and show this. 

video

I was also looking at the data collected at the other DYNAMO sites and found this time-series plot from Gan, which is an island near the equator, north of Diego Garcia. 

Notice in early November that the upper-levels are relatively dry. If you blur your eyes you can see how the low-level moisture builds and becomes deeper leading up to the convective period in late November. This process is sometimes referred to as the "recharge-discharge" cycle. The buildup of moisture can be thought of as a build up of energy in the column, which is then "discharged" during the deep convective period or "wet-phase" of the MJO. You can also see the strong westerly wind in the lower-levels in late November.


I'm still a little tired from last night. Steph and I headed out to the famed "Brit Club" and played a little beer pong. We lost pretty badly twice in a row, but we didn't let the shame ruin our night.



We hear that there are some high level british officers on the island checking in on things, so the Brit Club was relatively tame, meaning none of the brits came dressed in drag or took their clothes off and drank a random mix of alcohol out of a rubber boot on top of the bar.

After some snorkeling yesterday we were walking back to the truck and came across a group of merchant marines having their weekly BBQ. They invited us to have some food and a few beers. They were really nice and interesting to talk to.



They were curious about why we were here on the island and had never heard of the MJO, so I whipped out my laptop and did my best to explain what it was.