The northern tropical atmospheric research station at Ragged Point, Barbados is located on the eastern edge of the island with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean. It experiences generally easterly winds disrupted routinely by the passage of cyclones and anticyclones.
The Barbados AGAGE station (13°N, 59°W) commenced operations in July 1978 on the East coast of Barbados just below the Ragged Point lighthouse. Following extensive analysis of optimal global locations by Georgia Institute of Technology indicating the requirement for a tropical location to constrain emissions estimates Barbados was ideal due to its isolation and NE trade winds providing clean background air masses. A 12-ft by 8-ft timber hut which had previously been constructed at Oregon Graduate Center, USA was shipped to Barbados and equipped with a microprocessor-controlled Hewlett Packard 5840A dual channel GC-ECDs. A local person was recruited as a station technician and trained in the use of the HP instrumentation. They quickly mastered the technical challenges of running complex instrumentation in a remote location, not least of which was an unreliable electricity supply - especially during the early days. Approximately every 3 months Dr. Peter Simmonds from the University of Bristol would arrive to service the instrumentation and install any improvements or upgrades to the GC. After a long day trying to work, sometimes with hut temperatures over 100°F (38°C) due to the failed AC, one redeeming fact was the option to retire to the nearby, now sadly shut, Sam Lord’s Castle hotel for a cool, relaxing rum punch!
Due to the harsh salt air right on the coast, air-conditioning systems constantly needed to be replaced through rapid corrosion, and often GC parts needed replacement due to frequent power outages which had the unfortunate habit of burning out electrical components such as relays and sensitive electronic control boards. Gradually the program learnt to have spares on-site for every electronic board in anticipation of more failures, removing the need for a costly visit by a Hewlett Packard engineer. The electricity supply slowly became more reliable and the station operator became very adept at fixing unexpected problems without needing an emergency visit from staff from the University of Bristol, which now involved Dr. Simon O’Doherty. The station operator has continued to work at the site since its inception, with the added responsibility of maintaining the newer, more complex generations of automated GC. This includes the GC-MD system installed in 1996 and the Medusa GC-MS system in 2005. Dr. Dickon Young has now joined Dr. O’Doherty at the University of Bristol and alongside the station operator is responsible for day-to-day operations at the site.
The original wooden hut was replaced with a custom-built standard 20-ft by 8-ft intermodal container in 1996, concurrently with the deployment of the GC-MD system. The complete container and laboratory space inside was constructed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, USA and shipped out as a complete working environment. Insulated walls and a secondary shade-roof (removed by Hurricane Tomas in 2010) helped the AC to keep the temperatures stable but the salt, humidity and warmth of the coastal tropical site quickly started to rust the steel joists supporting the floor. A new, super-insulated laboratory with 20-ft by 12-ft galvanised steel frame was constructed locally on the island, and installed at the site in 2013. The frame is entirely clad with a fibreglass shell. Coupled with reliable modern AC systems, this keeps the moisture away from the steel and provides a long-term solution for upgrading instrumentation on site to achieve improved measurement of an ever-expanding list of gases in the AGAGE program.
The AGAGE scientific program at Ragged Point is supervised by the University of Bristol.
Ragged Point Atmospheric Observatory
Air intake elevation:
AEROCE Research Facility
St Philip, BB18032, Barbados