UC Geography busy over the “break”

Over the summer months when our labs are not used for teaching, there is no downtime as summer research projects kick into high gear.


A new weather sensor installed by Geography technician Nick Key at Broken River weather station will expand the data available from the station as it will not only provide most of the standard weather measurements of a traditional weather station, but it is also able to differentiate different forms of precipitation and detect lightning. Both will assist with Dr Heather Purdie’s alpine weather research, and also help better inform the safety team at the Broken River ski field.

In the coming weeks, data from the upgraded weather station will be connected and made available for the ski community and other alpine users – an initiative kindly supported by the Brian Mason Trust.

Researchers Dr Marwan Katurji and PhD candidate Benjamin Schumacher having been testing equipment for some incredibly detailed wind and temperature measurements. Measuring temperature fluctuations using 16 thermocouples each thinner than a human hair at 20 times per second takes a lot of preparation to get right. Thermocouple data will be combined with measurements of 3 dimensional wind speeds and images from 3 thermal cameras, recording at up to 300 frames per second.

All of this equipment has now been set up over an artificial turf in Rangiora to help better understand how turbulence interacts with the ground surface which will help refine measurement methodologies and inform further research on fire propagation, energy exchanges and more.

Also hard at work packing up for a field deployment in late January was Dr Seb Pitman, who is working with Surf Lifesaving NZ to research rip currents at popular swimming beaches near Auckland.

While a lot is already known about rip currents, Seb’s work will use GPS ‘drifters’, research grade survey equipment and an acoustic Doppler velocity meter (ADV) to gain more quantitative data to refine what is already known, and see if rip current development in New Zealand follows similar patterns to those observed overseas. The information gained will also help surf life savers further improve their already well-honed lifesaving skills.

Contributed by Justin Harrison – Field, Equipment and Laboratory technician at the University of Canterbury’s Department of Geography.