FRD’s meteorological network (the NOAA/Idaho National Laboratory Mesonet) has been experiencing communication issues related to problems with two radio repeaters (a primary and backup) on separate mountain peaks. Snowmobiles are the only viable option to access the repeaters at this time. FRD has been looking at options for having either federal or ERT staff use rented snowmobiles to visit the sites. This week, FRD discovered that the National Weather Service office in Pocatello owns snowmobiles because their staff must visit backcountry stations on a routine basis during the winter. Staff using the snowmobiles must take a wilderness survival course. Since the Pocatello office uses our Mesonet observations, they may be willing to visit one of the repeaters that may require only a simple repair. FRD has occasionally encountered repeater problems during past winters, but not frequently enough that there has been a need to invest in snowmobiles.
The division has continued testing a newer refrigerant called R-1234ze to determine whether it has any promise as an atmospheric tracer. R-1234ze and related chemicals have a low global warming potential but still contain electronegative elements (e.g. chlorine and fluorine) that tend to work best with the gas chromatography and electron capture detection methods used at FRD. Previous tests suggested that the refrigerant produces too small of a response to be a viable tracer, but there was some question whether the response was being masked by the large detector response to oxygen. Further tests this week confirmed that there was no interference by oxygen, so the refrigerant is not a good tracer candidate using the current FRD detection methods.