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Category: Publications: Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL)
  • Assessment of the COVID-19 Infection Risk at a Workplace Through Stochastic Microexposure Modeling

    Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on economy. Decisions regarding the reopening of businesses should account for infection risks. This paper describes a novel model for COVID-19 infection risks and policy evaluations. The model combines the best principles of the agent-based, microexposure, and probabilistic modeling approaches. It takes into account specifics of a workplace, mask efficiency, and daily routines of employees, but does not require specific interagent rules for simulations. Likewise, it does not require knowledge of microscopic disease related parameters. Instead, the risk of infection is aggregated into the probability of infection, which depends on the duration and distance of every contact. The probability of infection at the end of a workday is found using rigorous probabilistic rules. Unlike previous models, this approach requires only a few reference data points for calibration, which are more easily collected via empirical studies. The application of the model is demonstrated for a typical office environment and for a real-world case. The proposed model allows for effective risk assessment and policy evaluation when there are large uncertainties about the disease, making it particularly suitable for COVID-19 risk assessments.
  • Autonomous GPR Surveys using the Polar Rover Yeti

    Abstract: The National Science Foundation operates stations on the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland to investigate Earth’s climate history, life in extreme environments, and the evolution of the cosmos. Understandably, logistics costs predominate budgets due to the remote locations and harsh environments involved. Currently, manual ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys must preceed vehicle travel across polar ice sheets to detect subsurface crevasses or other voids. This exposes the crew to the risks of undetected hazards. We have developed an autonomous rover, Yeti, specifically to conduct GPR surveys across polar ice sheets. It is a simple four-wheel-drive, battery-powered vehicle that executes autonomous surveys via GPS waypoint following. We describe here three recent Yeti deployments, two in Antarctica and one in Greenland. Our key objective was to demonstrate the operational value of a rover to locate subsurface hazards. Yeti operated reliably at −30 ◦C, and it has good oversnow mobility and adequate GPS accuracy for waypoint-following and hazard georeferencing. It has acquired data on hundreds of crevasse encounters to improve our understanding of heavily crevassed traverse routes and to develop automated crevasse-detection algorithms. Importantly, it helped to locate a previously undetected buried building at the South Pole. Yeti can improve safety by decoupling survey personnel from the consequences of undetected hazards. It also enables higher-quality systematic surveys to improve hazard-detection probabilities, increase assessment confidence, and build datasets to understand the evolution of these regions. Yeti has demonstrated that autonomous vehicles have great potential to improve the safety and efficiency of polar logistics.
  • The Blowing Snow Hazard Assessment and Risk Prediction Model: A Python Based Downscaling and Risk Prediction for Snow Surface Erodibility and Probability

    Abstract: Blowing snow is an extreme terrain hazard causing intermittent severe reductions in ground visibility and snow drifting. These hazards pose significant risk to operations in snow-covered regions. While many ingredients-based forecasting methods can be employed to predict where blowing snow is likely to occur, there are currently no physically based tools to predict blowing snow from a weather forecast. However, there are several different process models that simulate the transport of snow over short distances that can be adapted into a terrain forecasting tool. This report documents a downscaling and blowing-snow prediction tool that leverages existing frameworks for snow erodibility, lateral snow transport, and visibility, and applies these frameworks for terrain prediction. This tool is designed to work with standard numerical weather model output and user-specified geographic models to generate spatially variable forecasts of snow erodibility, blowing snow probability, and deterministic blowing-snow visibility near the ground. Critically, this tool aims to account for the history of the snow surface as it relates to erodibility, which further refines the blowing-snow risk output. Qualitative evaluations of this tool suggest that it can provide more precise forecasts of blowing snow. Critically, this tool can aid in mission planning by downscaling high-resolution gridded weather forecast data using even higher resolution terrain dataset, to make physically based predictions of blowing snow.
  • Field Guide to Identifying the Upper Extent of Stream Channels

    ABSTRACT: The upper extent of a channel is a transition zone from the hillslope to the beginning of the stream channel. Accurately and consistently identifying the upper extent of a channel in the field and locating where hillslope processes transition to stream-channel processes can be a difficult task. Physical characteristics located at the beginning of a channel (i.e., channel head), including geomorphic, sediment, and vegetation indicators, can vary significantly across different landscapes in the United States. Remote tools are useful for examining the upper extent of channels, but these remote tools have limitations for identifying the beginning of channels. Even as the resolution of remote data continues to increase, field observations are necessary to validate the remote data on the ground and to accurately and consistently identify and locate the transition from the hillslope to the stream channel. Use of a combination of remote and field evidence is likely the most successful strategy for identifying channel heads. This report presents a case study that demonstrates how a weight-of-evidence approach can combine field and remote evidence to locate the different parts of the transition and ultimately to identify the channel-head location.
  • Modernizing Environmental Signature Physics for Target Detection—Phase 3

    Abstract: The present effort (Phase 3) builds on our previously published prior efforts (Phases 1 and 2), which examined methods of determining the probability of detection and false alarm rates using thermal infrared for buried object detection. Environmental phenomenological effects are often represented in weather forecasts in a relatively coarse, hourly resolution, which introduces concerns such as exclusion or misrepresentation of ephemera or lags in timing when using this data as an input for the Army’s Tactical Assault Kit software system. Additionally, the direct application of observed temperature data with weather model data may not be the best approach because metadata associated with the observations are not included. As a result, there is a need to explore mathematical methods such as Bayesian statistics to incorporate observations into models. To better address this concern, the initial analysis in Phase 2 data is expanded in this report to include (1) multivariate analyses for detecting objects in soil, (2) a moving box analysis of object visibility with alternative methods for converting FLIR radiance values to thermal temperature values, (3) a calibrated thermal model of soil temperature using thermal IR imagery, and (4) a simple classifier method for automating buried object detection.
  • High Efficiency Fuel Sleds for Polar Traverses

    Abstract: We describe here the evolution of lightweight, high-efficiency fuel sleds for Polar over-snow traverses. These sleds consist of flexible bladders strapped to sheets of high molecular weight polyethylene. They cost 1/6th, weigh 1/10th and triple the fuel delivered per towing tractor compared with steel sleds. An eight-tractor fleet has conducted three 3400-km roundtrips to South Pole with each travers delivering 320,000 kg of fuel while emitting <1% the pollutants, consuming 1/2 the fuel and saving $1.6 M compared with aircraft resupply. A two-tractor fleet in Greenland recently delivered 83,000 kg of fuel in bladder sleds to Summit with similar benefits. Performance monitoring has revealed that bladder-sled towing resistance is largely governed by sliding friction, which can start high and drop in half over the first 30 min of travel. Frictional heating probably produces a thin water layer that lubricates the sled–snow interface. Consequently, towing resistance depends on the thermal budget of the sled. For example, black fuel bladders increase solar gain and thus decrease sled resistance; data suggest they could double again the fuel delivered per tractor. The outstanding efficiency and low cost of these sleds has transformed fuel delivery to Polar research stations.
  • Use of a Portable Friction Tester on Snow and Ice Pavement

    Abstract: The objective of this project was to determine if portable friction testers could be used for friction measurements on compacted snow and ice surfaces. First, the effect of cold temperatures on the operation, consistency, and accuracy of commercially available portable pavement friction measuring tools was evaluated. Tests entailed a series of experiments in a controlled cold room environment. Two portable fixed slip continuous measurement devices and one deceleration spot measurement device were evaluated. The controlled temperature testing determined how ambient temperature and duration of exposure can affect results, but that with care, the devices could be operated in conditions as cold as ˗25°C. This was followed by using one of the devices on outdoor testing on snow, ice, and asphalt surfaces and compared the portable tester to the well-known SAAB vehicle runway friction tester. Results showed good agreement between the portable tester and the SAAB Friction tester, providing validation for the operational use of a portable tester on frozen surfaces.
  • Sampling Interplanetary Dust from Antarctic Air

    Abstract: We built a collector to filter interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) larger than 5 µm from the clean air at the Amundsen Scott South Pole station. Our sampling strategy used long duration, continuous dry filtering of near-surface air in place of short duration, high-speed impact collection on flags flown in the stratosphere. We filtered ~107 m3 of clean Antarctic air through 20 cm diameter, 3 µm filters coupled to a suction blower of modest power consumption (5–6 kW). Our collector ran continuously for 2 years and yielded 41 filters for analyses. Based on stratospheric concentrations, we predicted that each month’s collection would provide 300–900 IDPs for analysis. We identified 19 extraterrestrial (ET) particles on the 66 cm2 of filter examined, which represented ~0.5% of the exposed filter surfaces. The 11 ET particles larger than 5 µm yield about a fifth of the expected flux based on >5 µm stratospheric ET particle flux. Of the 19 ET particles identified, four were chondritic porous IDPs, seven were FeNiS beads, two were FeNi grains, and six were chondritic material with FeNiS components. Most were <10 µm in diameter and none were cluster particles. Additionally, a carbon-rich candidate particle was found to have a small 15N isotopic enrichment, supporting an ET origin. Many other candidate grains, including chondritic glasses and C-rich particles with Mg and Si and FeS grains, require further analysis to determine if they are ET. The vast majority of exposed filter surfaces remain to be examined.
  • Environmental Impact of Metals Resulting from Military Training Activities: A Review

    Abstract: The deposition of metals into the environment as a result of military training activities remains a longterm concern for Defense organizations across the globe. Of particular concern for deposition and potential mobilization are antimony (Sb), arsenic (As), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and tungsten (W), which are the focus of this review article. The fate, transport, and mobilization of these metals are complicated and depend on a variety of environmental factors that are often convoluted, heterogeneous, and site dependent. While there have been many studies investigating contaminant mobilization on military training lands there exists a lack of cohesiveness surrounding the current state of knowledge for these five metals. The focus of this review article is to compile the current knowledge of the fate, transport, and ultimate risks presented by metals associated with different military training activities particularly as a result of small arms training activities, artillery/mortar ranges, battleruns, rocket ranges, and grenade courts. From there, we discuss emerging research results and finish with suggestions of where future research efforts and training range designs could be focused toward further reducing the deposition, limiting the migration, and decreasing risks presented by metals in the environment. Additionally, information presented here may offer insights into Sb, As, Cu, Pb, and W in other environmental settings.
  • Detection Limits of Trinitrotoluene and Ammonium Nitrate in Soil by Raman Spectroscopy

    Abstract: The detection limit of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and ammonium nitrate (AN) in mixtures of Ottawa sand (OS) was studied using a Raman microscope applying conventional calibration curves, Pearson correlation coefficients, and two-sample t-tests. By constructing calibration curves, the conventionally defined detection limits were estimated to be 1.9 ± 0.4% by mass in OS and 1.9 ± 0.3% by mass in OS for TNT and AN. Both TNT and AN were detectable in concentrations as low as 1% by mass when Pearson correlation coefficients were used to compare averaged spectra to a library containing spectra from a range of soil types. AN was detectable in concentrations as low as 1% by mass when a test sample of spectra was compared to the same library using two-sample t-tests. TNT was not detectable at a concentration of 1% by mass when using two-sample t-tests.