Temperature Logging On The Last Frontier

In Alaska, the impact of climate change is easy to see. Already the melting permafrost is shifting foundations and rocking roads. Hotter summers are also turning food caches from refrigerators into ovens.

A permanent food cache. Via Wikipedia

[rabbitcreek]’s friend builds food caches with kids as part of a program to teach them traditional native activities. Food caches are usually inside buried boxes or small cabins raised on poles. Both are designed to keep hangry bears out. As you might expect, monitoring the temperature at these remote sites is crucial, so the food doesn’t spoil. His friend wanted a set-and-forget temperature monitoring system that could collect data for eight months over the winter.

The Alaska Datalogger carried a pretty serious list of requirements. It has to be waterproof, especially as ice and snow turn to water. Ideally, it should sip power and have a long battery life anyway. Most importantly, it has to be cheap and relatively easy for kids to build.

This awesome little data spaceship is designed around an O-ring used in domestic water purifiers. The greased up O-ring fits between two 3D printed enclosure halves that are shut tight with nylon bolts. Two waterproof temperature probes extend from the case—one inside the cache and the other outside in the elements. It’s built around an Adafruit Feather Adalogger and powered by an 18650 cell. The data is collected by visiting the site and pulling the SD card to extract the text file. There’s really no other way because the sites are far out of cell coverage. Or is there?

Though it probably wouldn’t survive the last frontier, this self-sufficient weather station is a simple solution for sunnier situations.

40-Acre HAARP Rides Again, And They Want You To Listen

News comes to us this week that the famous HAARP antenna array is to be brought back into service for experiments by the University of Alaska. Built in the 1990s for the US Air Force’s High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, the array is a 40-acre site containing a phased array of 180 HF antennas and their associated high power transmitters. Its purpose it to  conduct research on charged particles in the upper atmosphere, but that hasn’t stopped an array of bizarre conspiracy theories being built around its existence.

The Air Force gave up the site to the university a few years ago, and it is their work that is about to recommence. They will be looking at the effects of charged particles on satellite-to-ground communications, as well as over-the-horizon communications and visible observations of the resulting airglow. If you live in Alaska you may be able to see the experiments in your skies, but residents elsewhere should be able to follow them with an HF radio. It’s even reported that they are seeking reports from SWLs (Short Wave Listeners). Frequencies and times will be announced on the @UAFGI Twitter account. Perhaps canny radio amateurs will join in the fun, after all it’s not often that the exact time and place of an aurora is known in advance.

Tinfoil hat wearers will no doubt have many entertaining things to say about this event, but for the rest of us it’s an opportunity for a grandstand seat on some cutting-edge atmospheric research. We’ve reported in the past on another piece of upper atmosphere research, a plan to seed it with plasma from cubesats, and for those of you that follow our Retrotechtacular series we’ve also featured a vintage look at over-the-horizon radar.

HAARP antenna array picture: Michael Kleiman, US Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.