space weather

Good grief! As if regular old atmospheric inclement weather wasn’t enough to worry about, now we can worry about inclement ionospheric weather too! The fire season appears to be coming early and strong, which may make it difficult to conduct prescribed burns and work outdoors. The upcoming solar maximum appears to be coming early and strong, which makes it difficult to use our precision GPS machines, which are essential to our fieldwork.

Here’s a MnDOT bulletin from today warning us to expect bad performance of gps due to space weather rocking the satellites.

Read more about the the Solar Cycle 25 peak:

The title of this/Post is a haiku and so/Here are a few more

Watching the weather-

Is this sprinkle the start of

A massive downpour?

The weather channel

Does not know the answer yet

I am a bit damp

Lilies wet with rain

Look yummy enough to eat

Not allowed to taste

What is that weird shape

In the prairie over there

GPS monster

Waiting to deploy

Tents for bees because

We could be lightninged

Taylor and Collins, our GPS units

Johanna with Taylor the GPS (photo: Geena Z)

During the summer, we use two high-precision Topcon GPS units to map thousands of flowering Echinacea plants. Our GPS units are named Collins and Taylor, after two inspiring female scientists.

Dr. Margaret S. Collins

  • first Black woman to hold a PhD in entomology
  • researched defense mechanisms in termites
  • nicknamed the “Termite Lady”
  • civil rights activist

Dr. Marie Clark Taylor

  • first Black woman to hold a PhD in botany
  • researched photomorphogenesis, how light affects plant development and flowering phenology
  • developed high school science curriculum now used across the US
  • her curriculum promoted the use of real plants and microscopes in the classroom

Dr. Collins and Dr. Taylor were friends in real life, just like our GPS units that are often in the field together!

Learn more:

The good old days: when just one weather forecast would do

We delayed our fieldwork for a few minutes this morning because of scattered showers. Who knew we should have delayed for a few more minutes because of Solar X-Ray Flux?

The National Weather Service’s weather radar indicated that the rain (aka atmospheric H2O flux) was mostly south of us, so we knew it would be a short delay. However, we should have checked NOAA’s space weather forecast

When we arrived at the site, the atmospheric weather was OK, but the space weather was poor and our gps machine, Sulu (a Topcon GRS1), had a difficult time getting oriented. It may have been groggy because of the burst of solar X-Ray Flux. Here is the graph of Solar x-ray Flux from NOAA:


Just our luck! Next time we’ll check our local weather forecast and the space weather forecast!

GPS Surveying Preliminary Protocol

2010 GPS Surveying Draft Protocol.pdf

Here’s the GPS Surveying Protocol. Post some comments with thoughts, ideas, and changes.

Dealing with XML in R

XML is packaged for R via CRAN and is based on RSXML. Perhaps this will make it easier to parse the XML that the Topcon software puts out, or easier than trying to parse it all yourself.

Topcon GPS data

I dumped the topcon’s gps data into a csv. this data hasn’t been cleaned and contains a couple errors that have yet to be fixed, but it should be enough to flesh out some R magic to help parse the output. The point number, lat, long, and {all the entered data for the points} are comma seperated, the least being one big glob of stuff.

The first couple values are proper points but the wrong dictionary, so those will have to be done seperately.


Field Protocol for Daniel and Amy

So, for those of you who were wondering what Team Echinacea will be doing tomorrow, here is the field protocol for the transect searches that we will be using.

Field Protocol.doc

Any questions, please let us know!

Also, we were searching for Stipa today (a prairie grass that Dr. Ridley is planning to add to the common garden), and this is the setup we used to mark the sites with the GPS:


The antenna allowed us to get about a 9 cm margin of error when using the Trimble. And yes, that is yours truly manning the antenna, ensuring that the carrier lock is not lost. We were all ready to tell the next person who asked us what it was that we were searching for nuclear waste.


GPS points

I collected GPS coordinates of plants at the landfill on Saturday with our Trimble GeoXH. It froze as I was getting ready to go to the Riley site. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a reference manual, just the Quick Start Guide. For future reference, here’s the link to manuals and perhaps other helpful resources…

Beware downloading PDF files from this site has crashed my browser many times.