Ben B. Balsley
Ph.D. University of Colorado, 1967
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Balsley’s research in the past few years has centered on the small-scale dynamics of the nocturnal boundary layer and the free atmosphere using remote and in situ instruments and devices. In cooperation with other scientists, he has developed—or is developing- a series of new technologies for the above research areas, including the Tethered Lifting Systems (TLS) technology, the Slow Ascent-rate Meter-scale Sampling (SAMS) technique. In addition, he is beginning the development of an inexpensive, GPS-controlled, reusable, mini-glider (Databird) for atmospheric sampling between the surface and 11 km altitude. Extensive studies using the results of these measurements have been published in peer-reviewed journals, often in concert with modeling studies. His other responsibilities include the supervision of Research Associates, Post Doctoral Associates, and Graduate Students, as well as interactions with other CIRES members (Fellows and RAs) to encourage interdisciplinary research. Other activities include hosting 'Visiting Scientists' for cooperative research activities and extending the use of the above technologies to other research areas (e.g., the feeding patterns aloft of echo-locating bats).
Current Research: Fine-Scale In Situ Measurements to Study Atmospheric Dynamics (0-10 km)
We have begun to examine the meter-scale details that are critical for understanding the dynamics of energy-cascading processes throughout the troposphere and the atmospheric boundary layer using high-resolution in situ measurements. The primary vehicle for these measurements is a small, low-cost, programmable, reusable, autonomous, GPS-controlled aircraft that is being equipped with fast-response temperature, humidity, and wind-speed sensors. Data from this vehicle (the "Stryker," developed by Professor Dale Lawrence of CUís Aerospace Engineering Department) can be both telemetered to the ground as well as archived aboard for later downloading and analysis. For the upper tropospheric measurements, the Stryker will be carried aloft beneath a conventional meteorological balloon, released to fly to a specific location, and then spiral downward and land at a pre-determined site. Spiral diameter is 100-200 meters, while the vertical resolution of the measurements is on the order of one meter.
The sensor electronics are embedded in the main body of the aircraft and the "pusher" propeller is in the rear. The GPS antenna is near the leading edge of the right wing. During a balloon launch, the Stryker is suspended below a conventional 200-gm meteorological balloon prior to release (photo left).
Examples from our preliminary tests appear in the figures to the right:
Panel A is a plot of height vs. time for a single, three-minute ascent-descent flight to 300 m. Panel B shows crude initial profiles of humidity (blue) and temperature (red). The accuracy of subsequent temperature profiles will be improved by almost 200 times by using advanced digitization techniques. Panel C is a plan view that demonstrates the accuracy of the GPS-controlled spiral ascents-descents (the dotted curves delineate takeoff and landing patterns).
We expect this technique to provide the impetus for developing a unique, new, and powerful method for studying fine-scale processes throughout the first 10 km of the atmosphere.
Honors and Awards
- Doctor Honoris Causa (Honorary PhD), Universidad de Piura, Piura, Peru, 1994
- Distinguished Engineering Alumnus, University of Colorado, 2002
Professor Balsley is a CIRES Professor.