Two thirds of the way through this field campaign, and we’ve settled into a routine of sorts. The planning of a research flight starts the day before with a careful examination of a wide range of forecast products. The MetOffice are providing us with customised forecast maps – generated from their global operational forecast model – of both the whole of Northen Europe up into the high Arctic, and close ups of the Svalbard region. They are also running a high resolution (4km) model of just the Svalbard region. The maps include winds at various altitudes, cloud, precipitation, visibility, and surface pressure. We also grab the publically available forecasts from the Norwegian meteorological service, and take a look at various other freely available forecast products from different models around the world. We also use satellite retrievals of daily sea ice extent (University of Bremen sea ice group) to help plan where we need to be.
In order for the aircrew to file a flight plan, we need a pretty good idea of what we want to do tomorrow by about 10am, and a more detailed plan with precise locations and a summary of the nature of the flight legs required by about midday. The forecast team – the scientists who will fly the mission – start planning by 8am, soon after the latest forecasts become available. When the weather is more or less what we want it is easy to plan, and we can finish everything in a couple of hours. When conditions are less ideal it take a lot longer; carefully considering various options, and trying to balance how far away we operate – and hence the time we get on task – against the quality of the science we expect to get out of the flight. After all that effort things often change on the day – the weather forecast isn’t always right, which is why we’re here in the first place.
After sorting out the plan for tomorrow, the afternoon is spent completing summaries of the previous flights, looking further ahead at the options for the next few days, and trying (and usually failing) to catch up on non-ACCACIA work, answering emails, etc.
The science team has been split into two groups who alternate on flights. In late afternoon, those not flying often head down to the airport to meet the team flying today to see how it all went, and brief them on the plans for the following day or two. There is a tiny bit of friendly rivalry about which team is getting the best cases.
New forecasts come in during the early evening, so we give those a quick check in case they differ significantly from the ones we based our plans on, and then it’s off for dinner and an early night ready for an early start in the morning.