Mark Twain wrote, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." He was correct in observing that the weather is always changing. In the last year, we experienced violent tornados in the midwest and south and terrible flooding on the northern Great Plains and southern Prairies of Canada. We hope to gain a better understanding of the exceptional weather of the past year by measuring the stable isotope values of hundreds of rivers and lakes across North America. These isotope values are like little black boxes that record the history of water as it moves from place to place. We can use those values to trace the origin and behavior of water related to the violent storms and floods of the past year. By gaining a better understanding of the movement of moisture today, we can better predict how it may move in the future. Climate change models predict that the supply of water will change with climate, thus the more we can learn beforehand, the better we will be prepared to deal with increasing or decreasing precipitaion in different regions.
It is critical that we sample water throughout North America this year, if we want to understand the weather of the past year. This cannot wait for a funding cycle that will take over a year. By measuring water this year and comparing the isotope chemistry to the meteorological data, we hope to be able to better predict such weather in the future. Every year is unique and in fact every storm is unique, thus the more events that we characterize, the better we will be at monitoring and preparing for future events. Understanding how storm and flood situations develop will allow us to better predict and prepare for future events. Predicting the weather of the future is important to us all, farmers, city planners, home owners, and travelers. Weather events drive the price of food, availability of water, and even the cost of insurance.
Your support will allow us to collect and analyze water samples across North America, literally before the evidence of last year's storms evaporates, or flows away to the sea. If excess support is raised, the funds will be used to analyze additional samples collected from the northern USA and the Canadian Prairies. The more samples we can collect and analyze, the better we will be able to characterize the way the atmosphere works. I am in Asia at the moment, but want to get started sampling in North America as soon as I return in June.
By gaining a better understanding of the history of water as it moves across North America, we gain critical insight into how the atmosphere works to move heat and water from the tropics and subtropics to the higher latitudes. We conducted such a study in Central America a few years ago that revealed to us that when water moves from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side of Central America it forces increased heat and water towards the North Atlantic, thereby making it warmer and wetter in Greenland, Iceland, Maritime Canada, and Western Europe. You support will lead to new insights as to how the Sun influences weather and the hydrological (water) cycle of the Earth.
Dr. William Patterson was born and raised in the industrial center of Youngstown Ohio. Ever since he was a boy, collecting bugs, leaves, and rocks, he has always held a fascination with how nature works. Watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, and The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau fueled his desire to be a naturalist and scientist. Because he grew up in a modest lower middle class household, it was unlikely that he could afford to attend college. In 11th grade he entered the high school science fair with his friend Tony Mehle with a project titled "The effect of gamma radiation on the 32P radioisotope ion absorption rate during the germination of Hordeum vulgare. The project was supported by Youngstown State University, and Dr. James Toepfer, a radiogenic isotope specialist that thought highly of the pair of young students. Patterson and Mehle won best in fair and were ultimately sent to San Francisco at the age of 17 to represent the state of Ohio at the American Association for the Advancement of Science convention where they presented their research. Patterson was able to meet with many famous scientists that encouraged him to attend college. Like many of the people in such an industrial city as Youngstown, Patterson worked in a steel mill for a number of years--in his case not as a career, but rather to put himself through college. He graduated with honours and took a job as a geologist in St. Louis Missouri. After three years, he decided that he wanted to further his education by going to graduate school, and was offered a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, which he accepted, and then a fellowship at the University of Michigan, which he also accepted. While in graduate school at the University of Michigan he began to realize the incredible variety of research topics he could study using stable isotope chemistry. He was granted an archaeology fellowship while working for the museum of paleontology and the stable isotope laboratory. He was able to collaborate with climatologists, paleontologists, fisheries biologists, tree specialists, geologists, oceanographers, and many others. He also began to compare weather data to isotope values of water to unlock the mysteries of where moisture comes from and where it goes. It seemed only natural to combine his love of motorcycles with his love of science and use his bike to do the collecting on long research trips. While a graduate student, he was offered a faculty position at Syracuse University. He accepted that position and built the Syracuse stable isotope laboratory. Subsequently, he was offered the position of Director of the Saskatchewan Isotope Laboratory in Saskatoon. He accepted the position in Saskatchewan in part because he would have access to an additional 7 mass spectrometers. He remains in that position today, as a dual citizen of the US and Cananda.
B.S. degree Cum Laude in Biology/Geology from Youngstown State University, Youngstown Ohio, USA
M.S. degree in aqueous geochemistry from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Michigan, USA
Ph.D. degree in isotope chemistry (outstanding field geologist and outstanding thesis awards) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Michigan, USA
In Needles California tonight. Hot riding today with temperatures above 117°F! It can only get cooler from now on. After we reach the end of Route 66, we turn north to run along the Sierra Nevada toward Oregon, a route that will certainly have more water than the last few days.
The Pecos River in NM
Canyon de Chelly abandoned in the late 1200s, after a series of droughts. They were were depenent upon the river that may or may not flow.
Tomorrow we reach the end of Route 66 and the midewestern tornado alley precipitation transect and turn north to catch the coastal precipitation corridor.
We are in Gallup New Mexico tonight after sampling northern New Mexico yesterday and today. Tomorrow will be another dry hot one, crossing Arizona. We've ridden in temperatures as high as 116°C through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. It doesn't look like we will be funded for the analyses, which is a disappointment, but we will continue to collect in hopes that we will be able to do so some other way. Regardless, I appreciate the generous support offered thus far!
Riding with a broken shifter for 1200kms
When I finally found a dealership to buy one, I was approached by Phillip Seymour Hoffman who wanted to talk about the gravel roads in Alaska.
The mighty Pecos River in New Mexico
After leaving Illinois, we worked our way SLOWLY through St. Louis in the hot sun onward to Rolla Missouri.
We've rolled on from Rolla Missouri to Claremore Oklahoma today with temperatures peaking at 102°F (40°C). Our sampling gear was attacked by a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin in the Niangua River in Missouri. Long, hot day, but successful for sampling.
Our progress so far
Gasconade River in Missouri
Osage Fork Creek
We have finished collecting samples in central/western New York State, and western Pennsylvania. Tomorrow the first batch of samples will be mailed back to the lab in Canada. Tuesday night my new research assistant will arrive in Ohio from New York and we will depart for California to collect samples across the Mississippi embayment (Mississippi River Valley), and southern Rockies. There are now two weeks left to help fund the analysis of the samples that we are collecting. Funding goes toward lab expendibles and to provide a modest stipend to the student assistant that will be runnnig the samples.
The historic oil region of western PA where the oil business started.
Sayonara to Sudbury and shuffled off to Buffalo through Toronto's torrid traffic torture...
Old Woman Bay, Lake Superior
Nora explains the project to a curious onlooker
Sudbury impact structure in Sudbury Ontario, the second largest impact structure on Earth
Progress so far, getting closer to the Route 66 leg west
We've hit the road on the northern portion of the sampling journey and made it as far east as Wawa Ontario. Sampling is going well, though it has been a cold wet ride at times. Due to recent severe flooding in Thunder Bay, many hotels were out of business while all others were full, forcing us to make a run for Nipigon. We arrived with only a few ounces of gas left, but that's all that counts. Passing through White River yesterday, we learned that it was the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh. Today we will loop north-east-south to Sudbury Ontario. I should be able to update this more regularly once we get into more WiFi friendly realms.
Sampling the Temperance River along Highway 61 in Minnesota
Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, Ontario
Monument to Winnie in his hometown of White River Ontario
Progress so far
The sample bottles HDPE have arrived, and I'm now in the process of locating the electronics and other field gear used for sampling.