The plot thickens

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 10:30:30 05/18/14

In Reply to: Air quality monitoring in Yellowstone posted by Traveling Bear

Traveling Bear,

Good web sleuthing on your part.

Here's my take on what you unearthed:

First, I think we have two totally unrelated projects here. The project that produced the parking lot cam was strictly a "local" Yellowstone NPS undertaking. Incidentally, YCR is the acronym for the "Yellowstone Center for Resources", which is an NPS division within Yellowstone. It is where the researchers/scientists hang out, what little is left since the big transition to USGS decades ago. John Sacklin's area was (I'm really reaching here) somewhat analagous to a translational research organization. It was where research results and park management policy came together. It would be a bit easier if I had a white board, where I could show you an org chart. John Sacklin is gone, but the organization is still there, working away on various issues, like the Winter Use Management Plan, the lake trout in Yellowstone Lake mitigation efforts, and other gnarly issues that require science to inform management decisions. Here's an example of some of the folks that populate YCR. Doug Smith and the Wolf Project live there. Rick Waller was there, doing bison research, but I think he has moved to another project lately. The geologists, Hank Heasler and Cheryl Jaworowski are part of YCR. All the "hard science" people are part of the "Physical Resources" portion of YCR. (My memory might be shaky on the exact title.) The one I am more familiar with is the "Cultural Resources" portion of YCR. That is where historian Lee Whittlesey hangs out, and where Archaelogist Ann Johnson and Antrhopologist Rosemary Sucec used to live before Ann retired and Rosemary transferred to another NPS unit. Having expounded on YCR's structure, I will say that everything I have examined on the web points to a "benign neglect" situation on the parking lot web cam. Almost all web activity on this seems to have died in 2011, with the exception of the February, 2013 "update" on the web cam.

All the links that have "aris" in them, which I suspect is short for Air Resource Information System, are likely part of the broader nationwide initiative, which started some years ago, to monitor air quality after it became apparent that air pollution was obscuring the viewshed in many national parks. In that same era, I noticed that I could finally get weather forecast information from NOAA/NWS for Old Faithful specifically. If you examine the data that is supplied for the Water Tower location, much of it is classic weather station info. I strongly suspect that the ARIS data is being obtained from an NWS weather station up at the water tower, across the road and up the hill from the Old Faithful complex. There could be a few ARIS add-ons co-located.

I can tell you that I was present when some fellows from Denver were installing the original structure that the parking lot cam was mounted on. It was an environmental shelter much larger than a dog house, but smaller than a garage. It had all kinds of sophisticated monitoring gear housed within. I have no idea what happened to that structure. When the parking lot cam got moved over toward the Lodge, it was by itself. I remember seeing it while skiing around the complex in the winter of 2010/2011.

Further research will likely have to center on whoever has custody of the cam, and who has decisionmaking authority over its use. The constraints in situating web cams at Old Faithful are numerous. You can't put one where it is intruding on the viewshed. You have to be able to supply power and communication connectivity back to a central router/server. What is a chronic problem at Old Faithful is the scarce bandwidth available for any communication application.


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