Sir Peter Blake Trust Ambassador Mitchell Chandler — first week at Lauder


Mitchell Chandler is the recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Trust Climate/Atmospheric Research Award. In his role as a Sir Peter Blake Trust Ambassador, Mitchell is currently based at Lauder Atmospheric Research Station (Central Otago) working alongside NIWA Scientists to conduct field measurements of climate and atmospheric variables.

I have just completed the first week of my Blake NIWA Ambassadorship down in Lauder. For those of you who don’t know where Lauder is (I sure didn’t until I went there), it is located in the middle of nowhere in Central Otago, approximately 33 km north-east of Alexandra (see google maps screenshot). This site was chosen for an atmospheric research laboratory due to the region’s clear skies, low horizons, dry atmosphere, and southern latitude location.

Lauder is located in Central Otago, approximately 33km north-east of Alexandra.

Communicating science

The facility that I spent my time at down here is a world class atmospheric research laboratory that specialises in measuring ozone, solar radiation, and greenhouse gases. During my time at the laboratory I was involved in some of the weekly monitoring including the release of a hydrogen balloon that measures ozone, temperature, pressure, and humidity through the atmosphere to approximately 30km. I also had the aim of improving the availability of information about the laboratory. To achieve this I posted brief snippets about my time here on social media, but the main form through which I was hoping to communicate this was through a Wikipedia page. It turns out that making a Wikipedia page without an account is a lot harder than you would think. Definitely harder than just editing an existing Wikipedia page. As a result, after three unsuccessful submissions of a drafted page, I resorted to editing the existing NIWA page with up-to-date information about Lauder. For those interested, the page can be found on the linkl below:

Lauder Atmospheric Station - Wikipedia

Filling of a hydrogen balloon for its weekly launch. Equipment carried with the balloons (sondes) will take in situ measurements to an altitude of approx 30km. These sondes measure temperature, pressure, water vapour, wind and ozone. The data transmitted back is used to produce atmospheric profiles of these factors.


So anyway, as can be found on the wiki page, the laboratory here in Lauder measures a number of variables in the atmosphere and climate system, with a large focus on interactions between the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere, reaching about 10km in altitude), stratosphere (from about 10 to 50 km and where the ozone layer is found), and global climate. This work is important as the location of the laboratory in the southern hemisphere (at approximately 45 S) means that it is in a data sparse region of the globe. This is because in these latitudes there is very little land and very few research stations. In fact the latitudes in which the lab sits are more data sparse than Antarctica’s latitudes. This makes data from the lab extremely important globally and as a result Lauder is part of a number of global climate and atmospheric monitoring networks.

Clear skies, low horizons, and a dry atmosphere make Lauder an ideal site for an atmospheric research laboratory. Its southern latitude location means that the laboratory is one of the most important in the world as it takes samples from data-sparse latitudes.
Mitchell Chandler (Sir Peter Blake Trust Ambassador)

Next stop, Wellington

The next stage of my ambassadorship experience involves spending two and a half weeks at the NIWA facility in Wellington, and I can’t wait to get started with that.

Mitchell Chandler, NIWA Blake Ambassador, (Climate). [Credit Sir Peter Blake Trust]