First 7 days in Arica
So my blogging has really slacked off recently, and I have the VOCALS field project to blame (along with what often seems to me to be a generally uninteresting life... just living it Chilean style I guess!) I am taking various rounds of pictures and hope to post some soon. I've decided it's too hard to post on both facebook & the blog, and since I have a larger audience on facebook, it gets my pics first. (Sorry blog readers!)
So why am I in Arica? I'm working with the forecasting team, preparing daily weather briefings about the synoptic and mesoscale conditions of the SE Pacific stratocumulus field. The project, VOCALS, is funded by NCAR & NSF and involves multiple aircraft (the C130, a Twin Otter, and the G1... and a British plane that should arrive later this week) and boats (the Ronald Brown and a Peruvian vessel). The idea is to take lots of in-situ measurements of stratocumulus, both meteorological & aerosol/pollution, to get a better understanding of what processes control the morphology of the deck. The project is important because the stratocumulus field is highly reflective (when it's well-formed) and it is critical for regional & global climate models to improve their handling of the deck. You can read my daily forecasts archived in the Field Catalog. I've also been in the Chilean press, giving 2 interviews to both La Estrella, the local paper of Arica, and El Mercurio, something similar to the Washington Post of Chile (a well-read, national paper which leans right in the political spectrum). You can see my photo in La Estrella here.
So how is Arica? Well, it's known for 2 things primarily: desert & beach. The airport here averages 1 mm of rainfall per yer (that's about 0.05 inches, per year, an incredibly small amount!) There is absolutely no vegetation growing on any of the hillsides -- only in the irrigated areas in / near town. The ocean is deep blue and pretty clean, and although we're at 19 degrees south (about the latitude of Hawaii, for perspective), the ocean water is quite cool - maybe 60 F - which keeps the air cool & Arica in "eterna primavera" (eternal spring). I've been jogging quite a bit, tackling the large hill near our hotel each day. Running from sea level to over 500 feet is definitely a challenge, but the views are worth it!. I spent part of Sunday afternoon on the beach, reading & enjoying the sun. Most of the time, though, I'm working (the project operates 24/7 for the duration of the project).
I plan to stay in Arica until early November (the project continues until Nov 15). Yesterday a really neat opportunity came up for me to take a much more scenic route back to Santiago, and I hope it pans out. One of the other forecasters brought some of his students from Santiago in his personal car, and he needs to get it back to Stgo (he himself is flying back with his family). It costs about CLP$250.000 (US$500) to ship the car back, and I volunteered to drive it instead. It saves him money and allows me to see lots of the desert. Hopefully it'll work out!