EAR1 SAX1 Lander Listens to Methane

Sculpture listening. A methane (CH4) sensor delivers data heard as a beat in D#. A guitar string reveals a breeze. This is Shiprock, NM, located in the four corners area of the United States – The “hot spot” for methane emission in the US.

In an extensive airborne survey, a NASA-led team has analyzed a previously identified “hot spot” of methane emissions in the Four Corners region of the United States, quantifying both its overall magnitude and the magnitudes of its sources. The study finds that just 10 percent of the individual methane sources are contributing half of the emissions.

Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech, both in Pasadena, California; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Boulder, Colorado; and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, used two JPL airborne spectrometers to identify and measure more than 250 individual sources of methane. The sources emitted the gas at rates ranging from a few pounds to 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) per hour. Results are published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled “Airborne methane remote measurements reveal heavy-tail flux distribution in Four Corners region.” Christian Frankenberg of JPL and Caltech is the lead author.

As a greenhouse gas, methane is very efficient at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming. In the Four Corners region, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet, methane emissions are primarily associated with the production and transport of natural gas from coal beds. The odorless, colorless gas is difficult to detect without scientific instruments.

The experiment was a proof of concept for airborne detection of methane, according to Frankenberg. “That we could observe this distribution in a widespread geographical area and collect enough plumes to perform a statistical analysis was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

A group of researchers including Frankenberg originally detected the Four Corners methane hot spot using past observations from a European satellite. Last year, he and JPL colleagues joined a campaign, led and funded by NOAA, to investigate the hot spot, called Twin Otter Projects Defining Oil/gas Well emissioNs (TOPDOWN). The campaign also included researchers from the University of Michigan. Each participating institution deployed its own suite of instruments.

The NASA spectrometers used in the study can identify certain atmospheric gases, including methane, by the way the gases absorb sunlight. NOAA provided airborne plume measurements that were used to calibrate and validate the NASA data.

NASA collects data from space, air, land and sea to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

Credit: Alan Buis, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. August 15th, 2016

A great big THANKS to Fred Wolflink for his technical assistance with coding!

Through The Portal

This is an 8:14 excerpt from the 37 minute film titled, Through The Portal, 2015. The sound track for this film was captured by, and is unique to, the EAR1 Instruments (sculpture) at each location. An alternate soundscape may be perceived in this composition. The opening sound as heard from inside the Command Module is a composition captured by the EAR1 at The Jornada LTER. The sound is that of a Dust Devil passing close by the rover on an open playa in the northern Chihuahua desert. It is captured by one of the contact microphones attached to the piano soundboard. (known as the Main String-Field Sensor, or MSFS) See diagram for the EAR1 Rover listening devises here for more information:  https://brackmorrow.org/2013/01/

Frente Agua

You may follow this project through the Frente Agua Website, on Facebook, and at Twitter

FRENTE AGUA – (Facing Water)

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”

__ Laura Gilpin, from The Rio Grande (1949 –)

The Frente Agua project imagines the opportunity to speak to the deep and intimate relationship New Mexicans have with water. The Navajo Creation story tells us that a great river crossed the land from north to south, and this was the Female River. At the same time there was a river flowing from east to west, and this was the Male River. This “Place where the Waters Crossed” is where life flourished for the first peoples. Today these waters continue to cross our paths. New Mexico’s rivers connect all of us with precious resources that are our lifeblood. At the same time a combination of drought, invasive species, over-allocation, toxification, and unsustainable management is placing this lifeblood in danger. The wildlife that depends on rivers is in decline. The future of many communities and economies relying on river water is uncertain. The Frente Agua (Facing Water) project seeks to put a face to the “magic, moving, living” resource that is our river water. We seek to create a conversation by lending voice to the many New Mexicans who rely on and are connected to water either by livelihood or by recreation. Our multidisciplinary project is a collaborative endeavor between Stephanie Wagner and Brack Morrow incorporating photography, sculpture, video projection, and sound for the purpose of exhibiting visual stories depicting how water impacts the lives of New Mexicans from broad walks of life around the state. We invite New Mexicans to convey stories of how our rivers and waterways impact their lives. They will be filmed, and photographed along with the body of water that is meaningful to them. We will project their stories on a 10 foot sculpture of a face. We will be exhibiting Frente Agua in Santa Fe at the FantaSe Arts Festival on June 18, 2016.

Ecoacoustics, John Cage, and Prepared Rover


As part of the 6th Annual Werner Hutchison Contemporary Music Festival, I had the wonderful opportunity to give a lecture to NMSUs music department. The lecture covered interdisciplinary art, generative sculpture, the neuroscience of music, and the EAR1 project. During the evening program music professors, Dr. Fred Bugbee, Dr. Michael Armendariz, and Dr. Rhonda Taylor performed two pieces on the EAR1 Rover. They first performed a John Cage work titled, “Child of Tree” (1975)  Cage wrote this piece for all organic instruments, and it was adapted for the EAR1 rover by Dr. Fred Bugbee. They performed on a prepared rover. The second performance involved an experiment in ecoacoustics by which the performers responded to the silent EAR1 film, “Seasonal Movements.”  The performed/perceived soundscape offered us a uniquely alternative conversation concerning our relationship with environment.

Hail the Sound

The EAR1 Sextet Remote Station sculpture captured the sound of a hailstorm today -The second such storm this month. Shredded trees and plants by snow-white marbles on this odd October day. Mark Twain said “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get”. We know now there is a connection.

EAR1 Explores the Harvard Forest LTER

EAR1 Explores an area known as Hemlock Hollow. This forest is studied by The Harvard Forest (HFR) Long Term Ecological Research site. (LTER) This site is one in a network of 26 scientific sites dedicated to long-term research to better understand environment, land use, and effects of climate change. This is the second LTER Ear1 has explore – the first being The Jornada Scientific Range (JRN) in the northern Chihuahua desert, New Mexico.

The defoliated trunks of these giants are due to an aphid-like insect called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) and signifies their eventual mortality. Accidentally transported from Japan to the US in 1951, this invasive species has decimated millions of trees from Georgia to Maine changing ecosystems forever. This is a sober reminder to the dangers of transplanted species through globalization. One day we may not have the opportunity to look up and listen with the Eastern Hemlock.

LTER Network HFR JRN(Map courtesy of LTER Network) accesses 8/12/15

According to fossil pollen and sediment core samples the Eastern Hemlock has dominated this area for 8,000 years.

HemlockGrove Test Area copyMap courtesy of Harvard Forest LTER, accessed 8/12/2015