Sabbatical 1999/2000 - Part II Buenos Aries, Argentina
By: William R. Cotton

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1.0 Introduction

Vollie and I are now in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 10 October until now it has been catch-up time at the office. This involved catching up on all my mail, catching up with the research progress of my students and research associates, making project written reports and giving oral presentations of research progress for our extreme precipitation project, and attending thesis proposal meetings and preliminary exams for my students. In addition, I had to prepare transparencies for my lectures here in A rgentina as well as the upcoming Joanne Simpson Symposium and a workshop in Kenya. I even served as substitute teacher for Scott Denning who is teaching one of the classes I often teach. Besides compressing about 9 weeks of work at the office into 3 week s, at home I had to catch up on all the normal fall projects such as splitting this winters firewood, cutting all the firewood for the following year, varnishing doors and frames, and helping Vollie prepare for our annual fall project party. Who said sabb aticals were relaxing?

2.0 To Buenos Aries!

Loaded with 9 folders of transparencies for my lectures at the University of Buenos Aires in my carry-on luggage, Vollie and I headed to DIA after lunch in the sunny warm November weather. It is a bit amazing to be able to sit outside on our deck at th is late in the season and be comfortable eating lunch. Our flight to Miami got off on time about 4:45PM and we arrived in Miami with 30 minutes for our connection to Buenos Aires. We basically walked out one gate and across the hall and into the plane! Ge tting all our carry-on luggage stowed in the plane was a challenge but we settled in for a long nights flight way south. We arrived about 9:15AM, ahead of schedule, to overcast skies and temperatures in the upper 50's. My hostess Matilde Nicolini and stud ent, Celeste, with a car met us at the airport and took us to our apartment. It is in the main part of the city, but that is all I can say at the moment because I don't know much more that. It is a bed and breakfast sort of place on the fifth floor of an old building. We have a large room with oldish furnishings and a semi-private bath. I say semi-private because we are not sure if we share it with the landlady and one of the two doors doesn't stay closed and it doesn't have a lock. Vollie propped it clos ed with her suitcase. The landlady, Carol, appears to be in her 50's and seems very pleasant. We have access to a sitting room and a kitchen where it is do-it-yourself and partly setup breakfast. Carol mentioned that when out to keep our doors open. This is a little disconcerting as I have this $2500 computer and about $700 in cameras that I may not want to carry with me at all times!

After showering and taking a brief nap, Matilde and Celeste picked us up at the apartment and drove us out to the University of Buenos Aires. I am not sure yet, but it is about 4 miles from the apartment. The campus is nicely gardened and as far as bui ldings are concerned, is dominated by two very large rectangular structures. They are parallel to each other with their long side perpendicular to the river. They are each five stories tall. In additional there is a considerably smaller rectangular buildi ng and a few odd-sized building scattered about, a soccer/athletic field and that is about it. In one of those large buildings is the meteorology department on the fifth floor. The interior of this building is completely open with a large open square in t he center. After climbing to the fifth floor (a very slow elevator exists) walking on large red tiles, one finds about a 56 inch drop to poured cement floors. The building, first built in the 60's, is still not finished and they expect it never will be. O verall it is not a very pretty sight from either the inside or the outside. It is graying concrete from the outside and the inside is likewise graying concrete but with graffiti, posters fresh and old torn off ones, covering many of the walls. To get into the meteorology department one has to have a special key to enter a locked door and then another key to enter one's office. In addition, to go to the bathroom, one must go outside this area and use another key to get into the facility. Toilet paper is oc casionally provided there.

Entering through a locked door, one finds a modest-sized open interior room littered with computers and a work table in the interior. Off of that are two locked offices that look outside towards the river. Matilde's office is one of those. The river, R io de la Plata, is more of a bay than a river. It is about 100km wide, with Ecuador on the opposite shore. I gather the delta is actually upstream about hundred kilometers from here. It continues to widen as it enters the Atlantic eventually to become Gu lf-sized. I am told that it is very polluted.

After a tour around the department, Celeste drove us back to the apartment. Matilde then took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood. The neighborhood is mostly tree-lined with lots of shops and restaurants. It has a very Parisian look to it. The wea ther was partly cloudy with temperatures in the upper 50's. Matilde, who lives in the general area, then left us on our own and we picked up a few things at a grocery store and Vollie grabbed something to eat. She was not in the mood to eat at a restaura nt while I sat there on my fast.

After a good nights sleep from 8:30PM to 7:00AM, I took a jog heading generally towards the university. The first 3/4 mile is along streets where shop owners were washing the sidewalks down. I had to be careful I didn't get brushed out into the street to o. Then there is a park-like avenue near where the museum of fine arts is located. I continued on along streets for a while and then returned the same way. I felt much refreshed after a good sleep and a jog.

After a very light continental-style breakfast, more in the French tradition of croissants and toast and coffee (Cafix for me), Matilde met me to guide me to the department via public transport. As it was 10:00AM by this time, the subway and buses were not crowded. We began with a subte (subway) ride, and then a bus ride that meandered through a variety of streets and parks. After about 40min we made it to the university. Matilde doesn't drive so this is her normal mode of commuting. At the university I interacted with one of her students who is doing a compositing study of mesoscale convective systems over South America, much like the work that Ray McAnelly and I did with Jack Lin. It was interested to see the similarities and differences to our resul ts in the U.S.

After lunch I strolled around campus, enjoying the many ceibo trees with red blossoms and jacaranda trees with purple blossoms. In addition, I spied two green parrots in the trees. I took many photographs with the digital camera that Vollie bought me f or my birthday.

Then I gave a lecture to Matilde's group of six students in which I overviewed features of RAMS. The students were very attentive and seemed to be following my discussion quite well.

After being herded back to the apartment by Matilde by bus and subway, Vollie and I headed to a restaurant at 8PM for supper. We had salmon prepared French-style that was quite good and a bottle of Argentinean red wine. Speaking of French influence o n the culture here, the people are into dogs about a much as the French. In the morning one sees "professionals" taking 4 or five dogs for a walk and in the evenings you find dog owners everywhere walking their dogs. One must be very careful walking as yo u might step in doggie doodoo. It is especially tricky at night dodging their droppings in the shadows of the trees.

Today Matilde and I walked in to campus. The walk took us first through city streets and then along a parkway which had heavy car traffic. It was a pleasant walk in the nice spring weather, with temperatures running in the 60's. It took us 1.75hr, whic h makes the distance about 5 miles. In the afternoon I talked to Matilde's group about RAMS microphysics options including both our one- and two-moment bulk microphysics and the UTV bin-resolving microphysics. One of the students, Gustalfo, followed the l ecture closely because he is developing a two-moment scheme using some of the principles we have developed. One thing he does different is that he uses the same basis function, generalized gamma, but applies it the mass-distribution rather than number den sity of drops.

After work I decided to walk home on my own but following a somewhat different direction that stayed along the riverside. Except for some areas of construction of the sidewalks the walk was pleasant with less traffic beside the walkway. But then the tr affic got heavier and I found myself walking further and further away from the downtown area. The problem was that I had not turned right soon enough and I was trapped on the wrong side of the railroad tracks with no way to cut across. Using a paper with the name of the street I was looking for, I asked directions from a guard and he pointed back about two kilometers. So, back I walked then found a way to walk under the tracks and back onto the route I had taken to work. It took me 2 hours to get home wit h this longer route and sidetrack.

That evening, Vollie and our landlady, Carol, had decided to cook supper in. So we went and bought some pasta and vegies and prepared it with a salad and wine for supper. Carol had hoped we would get a chance to meet a Polish scientist, named Witold, staying there but he had made other arrangements. Eventually another tenant, a young fellow named Tim from London, arrived to join us. He is studying languages, specifically Spanish and Portuguese, and has a semester in residence here in Buenos Aires as part of that program.

Today was another warm and sunny day, with temperatures running in the mid-to upper-70's. Vollie joined me on my trek to the university this morning as she wanted to visit the botanical garden which is along the way. We first took the subte(subway) to Plaza Italiano and then walked through the series of parks that fringe the roadway going to the university. Going this way eliminates walking through the busy city streets so I plan on using this method of travel in the future. It still takes about 1.5 hours to walk the distance.

At the university I talked with Matilde's student Celeste(our driver on arrival) about her research. She is examining the low-level jet that flows from the north from Brazil into Argentina. Because there is very little data, she is analyzing the foreca st model output of the Eta model that is run by CEPITEC(sp?) in Brazil with 35km grid spacing. I believe she hopes to do sensitivity studies with RAMS to investigate the role of soil moisture gradients, the strength and positioning of the sub-tropical hi gh and other factors on the strength of the low-level jet.

It was interesting that I had a lunch prepared by a lady custodian who has a little kitchen in the meteorology department. They permit her to prepare and sell lunches to supplement her meager income as custodian. It was quite good. Afterward I presente d my talk to Matilde's group about our storm-scale research using RAMS. It was based on material prepared by Brian Gaudet and Sue van den Heever as well as a few things from Louie Grasso and Cathy Finley's dissertation. The students seemed to be well prep ared to understand the technical points I raised. They seemed to immediately understand the differences between vorticity production by the mesocyclone and near-surface vorticity; especially how convergence of vorticity becomes more important near the sur face. My discussion and lesson preparation made me think how Brian's sensitivity studies with coriolis force turned on and off, Cathy's finding that coriolis forcing was important to the vorticity budget of her simulated storm, and how Brian has never bee n able to replicate the intensity of tornadic vortices in Louie's simulations using soundings derived from his simulations now makes sense. In the latter case, the soundings do not inform the model of background vorticity created along the dryline boundar y which is subsequently converged to create the intense surface vortex. Likewise turning on and off "f" strengthens or weakens the background vorticity that is converged near the surface.

During discussions about Sue's LP hailstorm simulations, Matilde noted that it is common that bulk models are unable to get hail down to the surface as our simulations also displayed.

I returned home by walking along a small lake in one of the parks that I follow. There were many people enjoying the warm spring weather sunbathing. There were many single-guys baring their chests and a few women in bathing suits. The jacaranda trees a long the way are really filling out their blossoms.

That evening we had another eat-in supper at the apartment with Carol ,Witold from Poland, and Tim from England. We prepared fish and boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, and, of course, wine. Witold now lives in Venezuela and is consulting with an Argentinean laboratory about how to grow crystals as he is a solid state physicist. During the communist regime in Poland he took a sabbatical in Venezuela and the Polish government denied him permission to return. He found himself without a job or countr y. So he has lived and worked in Venezuela since then. Now, however, he can return to visit family in Poland.

Another beautiful day in Buenos Aires. It must have been approaching 80F as I walked from the subte station to the university. The jacaranda trees are getting fuller and fuller each day and the ground beneath them is covered with their lavender flowers . I didn't have much scheduled today as I didn't have to lecture and the student who I was scheduled to talk with stayed home sick. I had lunch with Matilde and a retired member of the faculty whose name escapes me. I have met her before at conferences an d I believe she was in charge of or at least very active in the hail suppression research programs in Argentina many years ago.

After e-mailing and reading some technical articles, I walked back to Plaza Italia to meet Vollie. We then walked to the nearby botanical gardens where we relaxed in the shade of bougainvillea. We observed the many cats in the park lounging about and v ying for the attention of the visitors. Being thirsty we stopped at a cafe and tried some of the local beer in a yuppy-type place. Then we walked to a park with a large rose garden. It was very pretty but we are always upset by the lack of bouquet in the modern hybrids. I think that first and foremost a rose hybrid should retain their sweet smells!

On our way back to the subte, Vollie needed a restroom. She is very annoyed at the few facilities there are around the city. One feels compelled to stop at a cafe and have a drink to use theirs and then of course a restroom is needed shortly afterwards . We headed towards the botanical gardens again, and just as we got inside they started herding everyone out because it was closing hour. Wouldn't you know they had locked up the toilets early. So it was another 10 minute torturous ride by subte and walk to the apartment for poor Vollie.

After relaxing, we headed by bus to a restaurant recommended by Matilde, who is originally from Italy. It is called Parolaccia and is located in the yuppy Puerto Madero district. This is an old port region that has been all redone with a row of restaur ant after restaurant along the water front. They are all fancy white tablecloth affairs. The food was very good and the prices were about the same as in Fort Collins.

For Saturday Matilde had arranged for us to join her and another faculty member, Ines Valasco, for a tour of the delta city Tigre. Ines studied with Mike Frisch at Penn State and did a study of MCCs in South America. Matilde, Vollie, and I first took the subte and then walked through lovely tree and flower-lined streets to Ines' home. She brought us in and gave us a tour of their nice home. It has a small but neat courtyard in the rear with a small lawn, trees, flowers, and shrubs, and a barbecue, al l nicely maintained. While waiting to go, I got to watch for the first time the Latin version of the Weather Channel. It provides satellite weather overviews of South America, local weather summaries and forecasts, and even overviews of U.S. weather, all in Spanish or Portuguese.

We then headed to Tigre (tiger) which is situated as a delta-city much like New Orleans but on the Parana River. It is a very old city and is today, what I call a "tourist trap" with an amusement park with roller coasters, ferris wheels, and even bungi jumper, tour boats galore, rental rowing skiffs, kayaks, motorboats, jet skis, and restaurants and stands selling food and toys, etc along the streets. After a long search for a parking place, we arranged to take a catamaran tour boat ride for a couple of hours. The day was beautiful and sunny with scattered cumuli about and temperatures were in the 70's. The only thing that marred this voyage was that the water , especially in the channel where the ferry started and where everyone is paddling kayaks an d rowing skiffs, is about the most polluted stretch of water I have ever seen. It stinks of sulfur (Vollie at first thought it was sulfur water such as in hot springs), and is this gray, cesspool-like color. I certainly couldn't imagine paddling a kayak i n that stuff where one always runs the risk of being capsized by the wake of one of the many large boats.

Once under way, we entered channels that were "flushed" more frequently from upstream flow and they didn't smell so bad. The water turned to a dark brown and in these regions one passed sandy bathing beaches, people swimming, cleaning their kayaks, and driving jet skis. The tour meandered through narrow, windy channels lined with a variety of small and sometimes large vacation cottages. It was fun to see the variety of structures people have built to vacation on weekends from Buenos Aires, which is onl y about 30-40minutes away. Occasionally we would enter stretches of wilderness having a jungle-like appearance. Sometimes we could see whole forests of Ceibo trees growing wild loaded with their red flowers. As the tour lasted well beyond lunch time I was afraid they were going to suggest eating on the boat, where the polluted water did nothing to improve my appetite. Even after getting off the boat I worried that we would have lunch within smelling-range of the water.

Fortunately we drove off and entered a town called San Isibo, which is located downstream between Tigre and Buenos Aires. It is a very old colonial city with large trees, and old houses all about. We eventually found a restaurant overlooking the Rio Pl ata. There on a large deck we had our lunch. While eating we watched a sailing regatta in which sailboats could be seen for many miles. It did not look like very serious racing as few participants raised spinnakers on the broad reach run. Many only had a single sail of a jib or mainsail aloft. Even those with spinnakers up did not seem to fuss about keeping them trimmed very well. In addition to the sailboats we observed numerous power boats including the noisy, pesky jet skis. We could also see a paragli der being towed aloft by powerboat, and even an ultralight aircraft with boat attached that took off and landed on the water. After lunch we drove the back streets of San Isibo and viewed the gracious old colonial homes with large trees lining the streets . It was very pleasant.

We were then dropped off near out apartment, took a brief nap and headed out for dinner at about 8:30PM. We found a pizzeria and tasted the Buenos Aires version of pizza. Our's was a cheese pizza with ojo (garlic), tomatoes, and olives. It was quite go od, yet different from most pizzas one would find in the U.S.

Now I'm not much of a tourist, but today and yesterday were tourist days. At 11:00AM Matilde met us at our apartment and we took the bus to an old section of town called San Telmo. Surrounded by old buildings of the late 1800's era, it a bazaar in whic h throughout an open square are people selling antiques. Besides not being a tourist, I am definitely not an antique collector. Still it was interesting to see all these people meandering about looking at the wares being sold. Most interesting to me, thou gh, were the couples demonstrating the tangle. At one location, using music that sounded like it was recorded in 1930 and using amplifiers from that era, a couple in their 70's gave a demonstration. They were just the warm-up show as they were followed by a couple in their 30's to demonstrated tango after tango from different regions of the country. We walked on and about 1:30PM while touring this 1850's building in partial ruin, we stopped for lunch at a place on a veranda overlooking the building below filled with shops. It was a nice place and I had a light lunch of a cheese/tomato sandwich and a cervesa.

We then continued our tour by taking a bus to La Boca which is located next to the river. It is an area where there are numerous open-air stalls selling arts and crafts. It is very colorful with the crafts being displayed, murals on the walls of bright ly painted old, run-down buildings. People were again demonstrating the tango as well as folk songs from the gaucho era. Being quite warm, probably over 80F and in bright sunshine, the breeze off the cool waters felt welcome except it had a fragrance that matched the worst of Tigre's waters. Yuck! But I did enjoy the paintings on display and was even tempted to buy one of the smaller paintings but didn't because of the hassle of packing it into our carry-on luggage.

I finally suggested that I had enough of standing and walking about and we headed back to the apartment where I took a nap before supper. This nap before going out to eat after 8:00PM is getting to be routine for me. Not Vollie, though, she is not able to get into the nap mood on the spot the way I am.

It was back to work today. I walked from Plaza Italia to campus and back for a total of 3 hours walking. On the way I saw the aftermath of an accident in which a car hit a tree and it was totaled. It is remarkable that with all this traffic and the agg ressive way they drive here that I have seen only one accident so far. Upon my return I saw a bird that appears to be in the kingfisher family. It had a green back and on the sides of its head were black and white stripes. Quite a stunning bird. Also in the lake near campus I have seen muskrat-like animals in the water. On Friday I observed as many as 6 sunning themselves on a raft and today I observed one quite close. They are much bigger than our muskrats, but have a scraggly tail like ours. Their bo dy size, however, is closer to that of a beaver. Their head a face is full of whiskers and they are rather cute resembling an otter a bit. I have also noticed on my walks and tours, that the Argentinean's keep themselves very fit. I see both men and women jogging, doing pushups, and walking in the parks. They all wear skin tight clothing and the women in particular you wonder how they ever get into them. They sure put us flabby Americans to shame! My lecture today was on orogenesis of MCSs. It was the mo st complicated lecture I have given and I think they got quite a bit out of it based on the questions and discussion and, of course, the body language. This is a topic of regional interest as the Andes are a source of many MCSs just as the Rockies are in the U.S.

11/16/99 - 11/17/99
Each day seems to be getting warmer and more humid. Today it got to 86F with a relative humidity of 76%. I can handle the heat outdoors just fine, but today it was so warm in the classroom as I lectured, I was simply worn out after less that an hour. Yesterday I lectured on the realtime forecast version of RAMS. I ended the talk with a display of our web products that I had put on my notebook computer. They seemed to enjoy that, especially when I ended up by bringing up the picture I took with my digit al camera of the class on the first day. I joked that they had better stay awake or they would show up in a picture snoozing. Today my lecture covered climate applications of RAMS and coupled ocean cloud-resolving-model simulations of convection over the tropical western Pacific.

I gave the department-wide seminar today to an audience of about 25 faculty and students. My lecture was an overview of my Arctic cloud research which includes quite a few cartoons that illustrate the basic concepts that I am trying to get across. The lecture went well and I had a number of people come up and compliment me on it. They have a newly acquired 3cm radar in the department where we could view a line of incoming thunderstorm cells from the southwest. The air became increasingly humid, probabl y over 80%. Finally at about 7:30PM the first rain since I have been here occurred. It rained moderately heavy for about 20 minutes, and that was it. I thought that it would be cooler and more pleasant after the shower, but that was not to be. Instead, th e temperature dropped only a few degrees, and the air was just more humid, probably over 90%. After a supper of pizza with palm hearts on it, we followed Carol our landlady zigzagging through the back streets to an ice cream parlor where we had some very rich and different flavors from what one could get in Fort Collins. It was very good and hit the spot in this hot, humid air.

My walk to and from campus was in very humid air. Temperatures seemed a bit cooler owing to the overcast partly cloudy skies, but still were in the lower 80'sF. It reminded me of Miami in May, but not quite as hot. I gave my last lecture today about ex treme precipitation estimation with RAMS. Afterwards the students all thanked me for the lectures. In the afternoon I met up with Vollie and we visited an art museum. It was nice but after all the walking I found standing on my feet very tiring. As we wal ked towards the apartment, I suggested we stop at an American-style bar and had a draft beer (cervasa tirada or chopp) and nachos. The latter is definitely something Norte Americano!

That evening a group of us including Matilde, two students, a lady friend of hers who just happens to be the person Witold is consulting with, Witold, Carol, our landlady, all went viewing tango. The place was a cafe built in 1902, that functions more like a nightclub. At 9:00PM we were ushered into this smallish room with a small stage. A band consisting of a pianist, an electric guitarist and an accordion player played tango-style music. The dancers were a very Latin-looking male with dark, slick-bac ked hair with bronze-colored skin and a tallish very attractive woman. They were the best tango dancers we had seen here. The guy most have been quite strong as the woman must have weighed close to 140 pounds, yet he did some very impressive lifts with her. I certainly couldn't have lifted her! Most of the female tango dancers we have seen on the streets were very thin and maybe 5'2" tall. This lady, being about 6' tall, was practically an Amazon by comparison. They did some fast, high-kicking steps, sex y close up maneuvers, and as I said before, some very impressive lifts and splits-all very athletic and modern compared to the street dancers we had seen. Then there was a male singer, who took up the majority of stage time and with load amplification. He was good but I would have been happier just to have viewed the tango dancers. Afterwards we stopped at a cafe and had snacks. Vollie and I shared a tortilla which is nothing like the Mexican style tortilla. Instead, it is of Spanish origin and is a circu lar, concoction that is more like a quiche without the dough. Ours had potatoes and some sauce all held together by eggs. I gather there are all sorts of vegies and meats that go into them. It was quite good.

Afterwards we accompanied Matilde on a walk to a bus stop and took the bus back to the apartment getting there about 12:30AM. The old man is becoming a night owl!

Matilde met us in the morning and gave us a walking tour of some of the parks. It was a bit cooler and less humid so the walk was pleasant. We stopped in a rather modern museum in former restaurant in the park. After viewing the paintings, we had lunch in the museum sitting outside beneath large trees. It was very pleasant.

We returned to the apartment, freshened up and took a taxi to the airport at 7:00PM. Then we got into the Boeing 777 torture machine for the night arriving in Miami at 5:00AM. Our original plan was to spend the day in Miami with Pete and Clair Black an d then catch a 4PM flight to get back to DIA by 7:00PM. Based on e-mail correspondences several weeks ago, I was under the impression that Pete was going to meet us at the airport. After waiting an hour, I called their home and Clair answered. She obvious ly new nothing about Pete and my discussions, so after talking with Pete, I suggested that it sounded inconvenient to get together and caught a 7:00AM flight. We got back to Fort Collins in time to have lunch with our son Bill and his girlfriend Vickie.

After getting home we took our dog Donner for a walk in light snow showers. The next morning we woke to 8 inches of snow on the ground! What happened to summer just a day ago?