Understanding our Atmosphere

BSc student Ella Knobloch shares her incredible experience doing atmospheric science in the field, as a BLAKE NIWA Ambassador.


Kia ora! My name is Ella and I am a third year Chemistry and Environmental Science student at the University of Canterbury. I am super passionate about science, sustainability and understanding our changing climate. This summer I was lucky enough to spend three weeks interning with scientists at NIWA through the BLAKE Ambassadorship programme.

In the little rural town of Lauder, lies one of the gems of atmospheric science. The Lauder NIWA Atmospheric Research Station has vital long-running measurement records for ozone and greenhouse gases.

The dome seen here is the home of a Dobson spectrophotometer. Invented in 1924, the Dobson is one of the oldest methods of measuring atmospheric ozone. Although some of the process is now automated, the instrument is still used to take ozone measurements globally.

The Dobson spectrophotometer is not the only form of ozone measurement taking place at Lauder. This hydrogen filled balloon carries an ozone sonde (foreground) to heights of ~30km where it then bursts and descends. The sondes, which detect vertical ozone profiles with high accuracy, also help us understand the Earth’s changing atmosphere and climate.

In science, sometimes it can be hard to align an environmental focus with practical procedures. This collection of weather and gas monitoring instruments is powered by solar panels. I helped to install a small wind turbine to back up the power generation for the days without sun. It was amazing seeing scientists and technicians finding ways to use clean, renewable energy sources to do their everyday research and monitoring.

The second half of my time with NIWA was working at Greta Point in Wellington. One of the highlights was a trip out to the Baring Head Atmospheric Research Station.

Not only a beautiful location, Baring Head is a world leading atmospheric measurement station. Air arriving at this site as a southerly is important to global research as it isn’t influenced by humans. There are also a range of weather and wind monitoring instruments on site.

For more info about NIWA or the BLAKE Ambassadorship Programme, feel free to give me a buzz on email: ellaroseknobloch@gmail.com.

Ella Knobloch is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Environmental Science at UC. As a BLAKE Ambassador, Ella was one of 10 young leaders selected from all over Aotearoa New Zealand to work alongside teams of world-class scientists and conservationists on science and conservation projects.