Ismael’s experience as an ORACLES (ObseRvations of aerosols above Clouds and their intEractionS) Shadow Participant

Hi all, welcome back after a long stretch of silence. Today, Ismael Kangueehi shares his experience as a participant in the ORACLES internship programme with you. Special thanks to Nicky Knox from Namibia University of Science and Technology for organizing this amazing opportunity. Susanne


My personal experience being an intern for the NASA ORACLES will be one those memories I will always cherish. ORACLES is a scientific investigation aimed at understanding the role of biomass burning emissions and low level clouds in changing the regional climate around Southern Africa, as well as global climate. The NASA-funded project team consists of scientists from Namibia, South Africa and the US, and brought two research aircraft for four weeks to a small town on the western coast known as Walvis Bay, Namibia.

The student shadow programme I got to be a part of is a great initiative that will personally encourage more students to make efforts in the upcoming years to participate and be a part of science. It is such a great learning opportunity especially for Southern African students since the scientific field work is being conducted in close proximity to where we live. I cannot stress enough how many the different experts are eager to share their knowledge and expertise with the local students. There is so much interesting data being captured on a daily basis during this month-long field campaign. All of this data will eventually be freely available on the NASA websites, and as young scientists we should make it a priority to utilize it.

The reason for this mission is that southern and central Africa produces almost a third of the Earth`s biomass burning (BB) aerosol particles, and their influence on regional and global climate is poorly understood. This mission focuses on measurements of aerosols (smoke) and clouds which are a bit beyond my scope of expertise but I must say that the experience is worthwhile. One of the primary aims of the mission is determining the impact of African BB aerosol on cloud properties and the radiation balance over the ocean, among many other objectives.

My interests are in aerosols and their overall geochemistry. For ORACLES there`s a group of scientists looking at particle size analysis and general chemistry of the aerosols, which suits in my field of study, and it was interesting to see how they conduct their field analysis. What stood out to me is the great variety of experts and specialists from different science backgrounds all working on one science mission with great respect for each other’s efforts. These different inter-disciplines also demonstrates the fact that engineers, meteorologists, modelers, chemists and pilots can all work together to successfully carry out a mission and that scientific questions are usually interlinked and do not exist in isolation. Although this creates a bit of an interesting scenario during the evening science meetings for flight paths planning, with all the different scientists preferring different routes, everything always works out with coordination and teamwork and sometimes a few grumpy faces but I guess that’s part of science.

img_9943Preparations of the low-flying P-3 (but can get as high as 7000m) before take-off. Outside the aircraft

img_9993Inside the cockpit of the P-3img_9952The main cabin of the P-3 aircraft which is literally a lab inside


More in the next post!




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