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Riding the Waves of Climate Change, Part 3: Only Durable, Reliable Flowmeters Survive


Mar 21, 2012

This month I’ve been blogging about field researcher David Mucciarone, a Stanford University science and engineering associate. He’s part of a team that’s changing the way research about global warming is done, moving from discrete sampling to continuous, real-time monitoring. A key component of that shift is the flow meter in his chromatography-based flow-through sampling system.

In our recent interview, he described two essential qualities that any flowmeter he uses must possess. First, a flow meter must be accurate in any weather, which I discussed in part two of this series. Because Mucciarone does so much field research, he needs a flow meter that delivers indoor laboratory results in an outdoor environment.

Second, he says a flowmeter must stand the test of time in a less-than-pure environment.  There’s a lot of competition for research dollars, and he wants to spend every one he gets as wisely as possible.

Flowmeter Performance Despite Ocean Debris, Vapors


During a year of research for Mucciarone, his testing equipment might endure the bitter cold of Antarctica, as well as the heat and dampness of Palau, an island about 500 miles east of the Philippines. Originally, he purchased a Sierra Smart-Trak flowmeter in 2006 in a pinch because the flowmeter he had been using broke and he was about to depart for Antarctica. (By the way, we’re always ready to help in a pinch! You can order flowmeters online now.) When I spoke with Mucciarone recently, I was amazed to learn that he was still using that same flowmeter six years later. It had literally traveled around the globe with him!

“The first flowmeter I used in my flow-through system apparently got a little debris in it, and it stopped working,” he says. “The Sierra flowmeter goes through the same debris, vapors, acid and other elements, and it’s still running. I have to say, it’s been a reliable component.”

Data that Leads to Believable Findings About Climate Change


Mucciarone has two back-up flow-through systems, and both are equipped with Sierra components. He says it’s necessary to have equipment in reserve because a breakdown out in the field can be costly, and he can’t afford to let his supporters down. Organizations like the National Science Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation, National Geographic and others are waiting to see the data analysis from Mucciarone and many others who are studying climate change. According to Mucciarone, all of this, in the end, is about getting information to the right people with the hope that they will make good decisions.

“Knowledge is power,” Mucciarone says. “We hope our research can help form government decisions. The idea is to show data that’s believable, and that’s what good instrumentation and good protocol help create – findings that are less likely to be disputed. We want to get to the place where the findings are no longer disputed, which depends on sample method, protocol and instrumentation. When those aren’t in check, anything can be disputed.”

I, too, am interested to see Mucciarone’s findings. For me, the outcome will be completely believable because I know and trust the instrumentation that’s backing him. At Sierra Instruments, we’re ready to put our flowmeter know-how to work in demanding applications that will come under close scrutiny, like this one. If you’re a researcher, what do you need in a flowmeter?

Erica Giannini, Marketing Manager
Written By:
Erica Giannini, Marketing Manager
Sierra Instruments

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