David Romps, Professor

Closed (1) Building a tethered balloon to study atmospheric physics

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The scientific goal of this project is to understand how thermals (warm bubbles of rising air) give rise to fair-weather cumuli (the common, fluffy, cauliflower-shaped clouds). These clouds exert a large influence on the Earth's temperature, and changes in their abundance are expected to exert a powerful feedback on climate change. By very accurately measuring the temperature and humidity within the very lowest part of the atmosphere, it should be possible to determine where the thermals giving rise to these cumuli are originating. To make these measurements, we need to build an instrumented kytoon (a kite/balloon hybrid) on a winch that is capable of probing at least 100 meters of atmosphere.

The student will be in charge of researching equipment options and assembling a short report that can be used as the basis for purchasing and assembling the required components. The pieces that will need to be assembled will include a kytoon, a winch (to slowly and automatically raise and lower the kytoon), a winch controller (a Raspberry Pi, or equivalent), a thermometer, a hygrometer, a battery, and a lightweight and low-power method for storing the data from the thermometer and hygrometer (another Raspberry Pi?). If the fall semester is successful, the URAP position will be renewed for the spring so that the pieces can be purchased and assembled. If the spring is successful, the student will be invited to participate in field research in the summer and deploy the kytoon.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Rusen Oktem, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: Prior experience with computer code and assembling electrical components is highly desired. Engineering, physics, and computer-science backgrounds are likely to be good fits for this project. For the spring and summer phases of this project, experience with coding will be required.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://romps.berkeley.edu

Closed (2) Climate Change in the News

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As studies have shown repeatedly, the average American knows very little about climate change. For example, the vast majority of Americans are: unaware that there is a scientific consensus on the existence of global warming and its cause; unable to explain the basic physical mechanism of global warming; and uninformed as to how much the Earth has already warmed and how long the warming will last. The public learns about climate change primarily through the news, but how often do news reports communicate the basic facts of climate science, and what could be done to infuse news reports with more of these fundamentals?

In this URAP project, news reports will be analyzed for the frequency of occurrence of several basic climate facts. The student(s) will perform searches on newspaper databases, read and analyze news stories, and build a database of news reports and their factual content. The results of this study, to be written up for publication, will help inform efforts to increase the educational content of climate reporting.

The URAP student(s) will work with two faculty members: David Romps (Earth and Planetary Science) and Jean Retzinger (Media Studies).

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Jean Retzinger

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated