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Wednesday 27 September 2023,

Three ASU engineering students built a meteorological flux tower to study the interactions between the natural environment and urban development. From left, they are undergraduate civil engineering student Ivan Lopez-Castrillo, geological sciences doctoral student Adam Schreiner-McGraw and environmental engineering doctoral student Nolie Pierini. They are working under the guidance of Enrique Vivoni (at far right), an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Photography by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU


In case you were wondering about the 30-foot-high metal tower that suddenly appeared amid a patch of trees on the east side of Arizona State University’s Tempe campus – the one with an array of sensors and monitors attached to it – it’s not capturing data from your cell phone or laptop as you walk by. It’s a meteorological flux tower assembled by three ASU engineering students.

The structure is gathering information about the surrounding ground surface and atmospheric conditions – tracking changes in moisture, carbon dioxide, weather and wind speed and direction.

The sensing devices are detecting and measuring evaporation and gas and heat transfer processes between the soil and the ambient atmosphere.

The students will be using the data as part of larger projects to study how an area’s natural environmental footprint is impacted by the built urban environment – and vice versa.

They plan to move the tower over about a year’s time to several locations on three or four of ASU’s campuses to get readings in a variety of different settings.

Look for a fuller report on the endeavor in the near future on Full Circle on the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering website.

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