Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Drop the Pilot

What you are witnessing below, shorts and caps notwithstanding, is a highly scientific "road test" of the Miros SM094 Microwave Sensor in the parking lot of the Field Operations Unit of the National Aeronautic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Well and good, you say, but what does that have to do with the BQE? Well, nothing, actually, but it has a hell of a lot to do with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and what passes below it.
Shorts-wave radio?
Here's the same SM094 device attached to the understructure of the mighty VNB (midspan). Its job is to detect and communicate "continuous, real-time observations of the clearance beneath the bridge with an accuracy of +/- 15 centimeters (6 inches)." It does so to avoid risk of any vessel's "allision" with the bridge, in other words, Boat + Bridge = Boom.
Who strapped an overhead projector to the bridge?
But don't we already know the clearance of the bridge? Yes, 69.5 meters (228 feet) at mean high tide. Of course, water level in the bay can exceed mean high tide, but wouldn't it be simpler just to measure the current water level and report that to any approaching vessels? But that, junior scientist, would only give us half the story. The bridge itself, independent of water level, changes height. Yes! According to the NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 049: "The bridge encounters so much excessive motion (12-foot vertical excursions) due to thermal expansion and traffic loading that, even if there were an adjacent water level station, it would not be a suitable reference."

12-foot vertical excursions? EXCURSIONS?! Turns out I have been worried in the wrong direction, sure that I'd be blown off the bridge sideways. Now I have to worry about the bottom dropping out. Thanks, NOAA! And Happy Birthday MMA!

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