BLISS-FUL Campaign

CLAMPS and CASS trailers at Kessler farm. Credit: NOAA/NSSL

BLISS Field Universalization Laboratory 2021

closed opportunity

Executive Summary

A group of collaborative researchers at OU, CIMMS, and NSSL, comprising the Boundary Layer Integrated Sensing and Simulation (BLISS) research group, propose to deploy boundary layer observing platforms at the OU Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAEFS) to complete critical field-readiness tests and calibrations, enable new training and education opportunities at graduate and undergraduate levels, and conduct novel and convergent research. This deployment is called the BLISS Field Univeralization Laboratory, or BLISS-FUL. It is proposed to last just over one month (May/June 2021) and will include a two-day virtual workshop, one week of field testing, a demonstration day for community leadership, two days of training for students and early-career researchers, and approximately four weeks of scientific data collection.

The deployment includes several platforms focused mostly on the lowest portion of the atmosphere, and spans multiple disciplines including meteorology, geography, biology, and more. BLISS-FUL also offers a unique opportunity for students and early-career researchers to propose intensive observation periods of their own during the data collection phase. In addition to serving as a critical test ahead of a daunting deployment schedule for late 2021, 2022, and even into 2023, this deployment also builds on many of the ideas presented in Pushing the Boundary (Layer): An Initiative for Boundary-Layer Research in the National Weather Center Community to bring researchers from many stages and groups together––safely––to build and maintain a collaborative research community.

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
May 23 24 WS 25 WS 26 TEST 27 TEST 28 TEST 29 TEST
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 July 1 2 END 3

1. Introduction

A group of collaborative researchers at OU, CIMMS, and NSSL, comprising the Boundary Layer Integrated Sensing and Simulation (BLISS) research group, propose to deploy boundary layer observing platforms at the OU Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAEFS) to complete critical field-readiness tests and calibrations, enable new training and education opportunities at graduate and undergraduate levels, and conduct novel and convergent research. This effort will allow the group to develop universal calibration standards and levels of field readiness for all their platforms moving forward. It will also offer newer members of the group opportunity to work with platforms that have been otherwise inaccessible for over one year. This concept builds on many of the ideas presented in Pushing the Boundary (Layer): An Initiative for Boundary-Layer Research in the National Weather Center Community to bring researchers from many stages and groups together––safely––to build and maintain a collaborative research community. In this spirit, the proposed deployment is called the BLISS Field Univeralization Laboratory, or BLISS-FUL. Over approximately one month––as shown in the calendar above––we propose a planning and workshopping phase, a testing period, a dedicated training period, a demonstration day, and more than four weeks of scientific data collection, during which students and affiliated researchers have the opportunity to propose focused intensive observation period (IOP) objectives. This document will outline the timing, design, justification, and safety considerations for each proposed component of this deployment.

Propsed assets for deployment:

  • CLAMPS-1 - PI Klein
    • User fee funds provided by Klein
  • CLAMPS-2 - PI Smith
  • NSSL Mobile Lidar - PI Smith/Bell
    • Pending field readiness of the platform and availability (e. g., nearby storm activity)
  • OU-CASS CopterSondes - PI Bell
  • OU-CASS constituent sampling platforms PI - Pillar-Little
  • NSSL Quantum Trinity & Skydio PI - Wagner
  • Tower measurements PI - Pillar-Little
  • Radiosondes PI - Bell/Smith
    • Radiosonde packages, balloons, and helium will be procured from existing excess stores at CASS and NSSL on an as needed basis only
  • LunAero - PI Kelly (OU Biology)
    • This deployment may fall outside the science period to coincide with the full moon phase

2. BLISS-FUL Workshop & Testing Period

Given the worldwide impacts of COVID-19, field deployments planned in 2020 and 2021 have been generally postponed. This has led to dormant systems and a daunting deployment schedule for late 2021, 2022, and even into 2023. For example, at least one of the two Collaborative Lower Atmospheric Mobile Profiling System (CLAMPS) platforms will be field active for nearly a continuous 12-month period beginning October 2021. As such, deploying our systems for testing, calibration, and important evaluation of newly implemented workflows is critical well ahead of field active periods.

The BLISS-FUL workshop will utilize virtual meeting methods to minimize indoor meetings. It will take the form of a two-day workshop including the teams that operate and maintain the boundary layer observing systems relevant for the BLISS-FUL effort (e.g., CLAMPS, CopterSondes, etc.) and graduate students working with those platforms in their thesis/dissertation work. The first day of the workshop will focus on the following topics:

  1. What issues are suspected among systems, and how can we test for them?
  2. What new development work has occurred and been implemented on systems, and how should we test it?
  3. Have new instruments been acquired, and if so how should they be evaluated?
  4. What calibration techniques are needed now and as a standard part of operating procedures?
  5. What operating practices (scans, methods, etc.) should become part of the standard operating procedure for each platform?
  6. Are there specific new methods we should test and evaluate?

Based on the outcome of day 1 discussion on the above listed topics, the second day of the workshop will focus on designing clear plans and a schedule for tests, calibrations, and evaluations that need to be carried out for each deployed system over the planned seven day period for testing. The schedule will include specific information about tests to be conducted per instrument, responsible parties, who is to be onsite and when, what additional levels of COVID-protocols are to be used for each test (dependent on test risk-level, personnel proximity, etc.), and data to be collected. Contingency plans will be made for scrapped tests in the event of adverse weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances.

After the workshop is complete and the schedule is set, all assets involved will be moved to KAEFS for deployment. Arrangements will be made during and/or prior to the workshop to minimize the number of people needed per platform and/or per vehicle to reduce close contacts. The movement of each platform will be coordinated by the platform PI, but all PIs are expected to communicate with BLISS-FUL leads to ensure efficient site access and COVID-safe deployment on site. The remotely-operable platforms will be put into a basic scanning or collecting mode to begin data collection. Testing will begin immediately the following day and last up to seven days according to the schedule set during the two-day workshop.

3. Demonstration Day

Over the last several years, the National Weather Center community and the University of Oklahoma have seen a number of changes in leadership positions at all levels. Additionally, new colleagues and platforms have joined BLISS and BLISS-connected research teams in recent months. The intention here is to introduce visiting leaders to the early-career talent that is driving a lot of the research and innovation in this space. We also will demonstrate new platforms, and display the improved capabilities of existing platforms with which some leaders may already be familiar.

Bringing the equipment out together will enable us to show the synergistic opportunities for co-deployment of these platforms. We will showcase some of our recent and upcoming science projects in addition to demonstrating instrument capabilities in an effort to paint a complete picture of the research and education impacts these platforms have on our science communities and beyond. A demonstration day will allow leaders and decision makers to view the platforms and operations first hand and learn what the BLISS group and BLISS-affiliated groups are capable of doing. We hope such knowledge and opportunity to ask questions will enable leaders to make more informed decisions moving forward in their positions.

This deployment offers an opportunity to invite key leadership and stakeholders to the field in order to see a deployment in action at a local site in a controlled, outdoor environment where COVID-19 risks can be mitigated. Some mitigation strategies that will be employed include, but are not limited to, staggered site visits by different leadership groups, distanced platform stations for visitation, all parties on site wearing double masks (following CDC and NOAA recommendations), and avoiding multiple persons inside any enclosed spaces where spacing is not possible.

Leadership groups proposed for invitation:

  1. School of Meteorology Director team
  2. Dept. Geography and Environmental Sustainability Chair team
  3. College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences Dean team
  4. OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships team
  5. OU Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies Director team
  6. NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Director team
  7. Oklahoma Climatological Survey/Oklahoma Mesonet Director team
  8. NOAA National Weather Service leadership teams (OUN WFO/SPC)
  9. OU AeroEcology group leadership

In addition to the leadership teams, times will be reserved (on this day or others as needed) for OU, CIMMS, and NSSL communications teams to develop materials for promotions and stories as needed.

4. Training

Given the hiatus from field operations due to COVID-19 related delays and cancellations, there is a clear and present need for training of new students, staff, and scientists on how to safely operate current research platforms. During the BLISS-FUL workshop and testing period, concise training materials will be developed for each platform and platform component. Platform experts will lead training sessions for each platform based on these materials.

During the two day training period, each day will be split into two or three sessions of two to four hours, depending on demand. This number of sessions will allow for appropriate COVID safety protocol and keep group sizes low enough to ensure trainees get ample opportunity to learn first hand on each platform. By the end of each session, trainees should be able to deploy an instrument, collect data in a standard operating mode, and undeploy an instrument independently.

This effort is absolutely vital to the success of boundary layer research programs in 2021, 2022 and beyond. Given the demanding field schedule made up of postponed campaigns from previous years and pre-planned campaigns, several training and capable field operators will be needed to safely and effectively collect robust and valuable research data. In addition to supporting the success of near-term programs, this effort should also provide materials for training future additions to research teams, which can be reused and revisited in the future.

Training not only serves the research needs of our community; it also adds immense value to the educational experience of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Oklahoma. Many of the platforms operated by BLISS and BLISS-affiliated researchers are state-of-the-art instruments. Experience operating these platforms and working with the data they collect provides students opportunities not easily recreated at other universities or institutions and prepares them for careers in science.

5. Scientific Data Collection

After testing, demonstration, and training is complete, BLISS-FUL will move into scientific data collection mode for just over one month. During this period the remotely operable platforms will operate in a standard data collection mode (as defined during the workshop period) when not being employed for an IOP. This will allow for target-of-opportunity data collection, but also will serve as a field stress-test of the systems prior to a long series of consecutive deployments.

In an effort to offer early-career researchers and students an opportunity to learn, BLISS-FUL will accept proposals for IOPs in a written format following closely to the format OU-CIMMS uses for its Director’s Discretionary Research Funding awards. These requests will allow burgeoning PIs the opportunity to try their hand at designing an observation plan to meet their scientific goals. The leads on this justification will serve as reviewers on these requests making recommendations, adjustments, consolidations, and scheduling decisions to accommodate as many IOP requests as possible while maintaining meaningful observations.

In addition to IOP requests, a few predetermined IOPs are planned based on existing hypotheses within the BLISS team. Many of these revolve around synergistically combining UAS and ground-based remote sensing. For example, calculating wind speeds from rotary-wing UAS is typically done by determining a relationship between the pitch of the craft and the wind speed. In most cases this is done by hovering next to an instrumented tower. However, recent preliminary work has shown that horizontal wind speed estimation from rotary-wing UAS may need to account for the ascent speed of the craft when determining this relationship. Thus having special, high-rate Doppler lidar scans co-located with CopterSonde profiles will allow this hypothesis to be extensively tested. Additionally, special scans that put the CopterSonde in the beam of the Doppler lidar could allow for the 3D wind vector to be calculated at a high rate. These hypotheses and others will be tested in this synergistic environment to extend the novel work BLISS and affiliated researchers are able to do with state-of-the-art platforms.

6. Safety Considerations

Each day field activities will occur on site, the forecast will be shared at the beginning of the day and/or the evening prior regarding hazards to operations. A site safety manager will be appointed each onsite day to monitor those hazards and report out to onsite leads hourly (or more frequently as hazards require).

Prior to any new personnel coming to site for deployments or for training, they will be expected to acknowledge their receipt and review of the NWC protocol document outlining the behavior expectations in place. Onsite contacts for this activity are the leads listed above. Specific contact information will be shared with all participants.

In addition to standard weather safety and site safety, we must address COVID-19. Multiple members of this group have had success during 2020 and 2021 successfully deploying to the field including overnight trips and more “nomadic” travel styles, with no transmissions. BLISS-FUL requires a stationary deployment on a local site where no overnight travel is required, removing many of the COVID-19 related complications (e.g., hotels, restaurants, etc.). In the local Norman, OK community rapid turn-around (<2 business days) PCR COVID-19 testing is readily available and immunization has become widely accessible. Given the fully outdoor mode of this deployment and lack of travel considerations once deployed, the proposed activities should be able to be carried out safely.

While on site all CDC, OU, and NOAA recommended guidelines (e.g., masking/personal protective equipment, and social distancing) will be observed. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Wearing a properly fitted face mask/covering. Current (CDC; April 2021) guidance recommends double masking if wearing a basic cloth mask (e.g., use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of cloth or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask—the cloth mask should push the edges of the disposable mask against your face)
  • When practical/applicable, wearing gloves when touching shared surfaces and taking care to not cross contaminate with those gloves (e.g., no rubbing eyes/nose/mouth and continuing to work with those gloves)
  • Wiping down all high-contact shared surfaces with which the individual comes into contact
  • Maintaining proper social distancing, including while outdoors
  • Ensuring any enclosed spaced (e.g., trailers) have available ventilation running/open and limiting occupancy to safe levels (maintain distancing while considering ventilation limitations)

In addition to any OU requirements that may or may not be in effect, all on-site BLISS-FUL participants will be asked to self-certify and provide contact tracing information via a daily google form. Self-certification follows closely to the NOAA guidance, and contact tracing will track who was on site and when in the event a positive case is identified. In the event a case is identified or any on-site personnel start showing symptoms that may be related to COVID-19, the present operations will immediately cease and all personnel will leave the site until contact tracing is complete, and quarantine protocols are followed.


Self Certification Questions If you answer ‘YES’ to any of the screening questions, you should NOT enter the site. Since last reporting to this site, should you be under self-quarantine due to known recent exposure to COVID-19? and/or, do you have:

  • A new fever (100.4°F or higher) or a sense of having a fever?
  • A new cough that cannot be attributed to another health condition?
  • New shortness of breath that cannot be attributed to another health condition?
  • New chills that cannot be attributed to another health condition?
  • A new sore throat that cannot be attributed to another health condition?
  • New muscle aches (myalgia) that cannot be attributed to another health
  • condition or specific activity (such as physical exercise)?
  • A new loss of taste and/or smell?

Contact Tracing Form Questions

  • Identifying/contact information
  • Self certification (yes/no)
  • Vaccination status (can choose not to answer)
  • Date/Time of site entry
  • Date/Time of site exit
  • Names of any very close contacts (defined as prolonged proximate work, more than 15 minutes working together)
Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Dr. Elizabeth N. Smith
Research Meteorologist

Elizabeth joined NSSL as a research meteorologist in January 2020, where she focuses on boundary-layer processes relevant to near- and pre-storm environments and convection initiation.

Dr. Tyler M. Bell
Dr. Tyler M. Bell
Research Scientist

Tyler is a Research Associate in CIWRO working on using ground-based remote sensors and WxUAS to advance the understanding of various boundary layer processes. He is acitvely exploring ways to optimally combine data collected from WxUAS and ground-based remote sensing.

Dr. Petra Klein
Dr. Petra Klein
Professor, Executive Associate Dean