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Inexpensive Time-Lapse Digital Cameras for Studying Transient Meteorological Phenomena: Dust Devils and Playa Flooding
Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology (2010)
  • Ralph D. Lorenz, University of Arizona
  • Brian Jackson, University of Arizona
  • Jason W. Barnes, University of Idaho
The authors describe the design and performance of inexpensive and compact time-lapse cameras suitable for field deployment in remote locations for long periods and their application to studying two time-variable meteorological phenomena in arid regions: desert dust devils and transient flooding of playa lakes. The camera units (with a total parts cost of ∼$80) are based around commercial “point and shoot” digital cameras, storing ∼1500 images on a solid-state memory card over a period between an hour to several months powered by alkaline batteries. A microcontroller can trigger image acquisition based on sensor inputs or at regular intervals. Some example results are presented, showing an association of cumulus clouds with thermals from dust devils, a region of dust enhancement around a dust devil, and a dramatic range of conditions at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. Alternative systems and applications are also discussed.
  • instrumentation/sensors,
  • in situ observations,
  • flood events,
  • dust or dust storms,
  • field experiments
Publication Date
January, 2010
Publisher Statement
© Copyright 2010 American Meteorological Society (AMS). Permission to use figures, tables, and brief excerpts from this work in scientific and educational works is hereby granted provided that the source is acknowledged. Any use of material in this work that is determined to be "fair use" under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act or that satisfies the conditions specified in Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 USC §108, as revised by P.L. 94-553) does not require the AMS’s permission. Republication, systematic reproduction, posting in electronic form, such as on a web site or in a searchable database, or other uses of this material, except as exempted by the above statement, requires written permission or a license from the AMS. Additional details are provided in the AMS Copyright Policy, available on the AMS Web site located at ( or from the AMS at 617-227-2425 or doi: 10.1175/2009JTECHA1312.1
Citation Information
Ralph D. Lorenz, Brian Jackson and Jason W. Barnes. "Inexpensive Time-Lapse Digital Cameras for Studying Transient Meteorological Phenomena: Dust Devils and Playa Flooding" Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology Vol. 27 Iss. 1 (2010)
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