Laramie High Tidings

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IN THIS ISSUE: Update on the UW King Air 2 • Message from the Dept. Head • Welcome to Prof. Daniel McCoy • The Mullen fire, and air quality • King Air deployments in 2020 • Greenhouse gas emissions from cattle feedlot • News from around UW-DAS • Student news • Alumni news • How to donate to UW-DAS





UW KING AIR 2 The 43-year old University of Wyoming King Air (UWKA) research aircraft (tail number “N2UW”) continues to serve us well, however, we are now only 18 months away from its retirement and replacement. While the pandemic took its toll on large field programs in 2020, the King Air was used in support of several smaller campaigns this year. You can read about them on p.5 of this newsletter. Rest assured that the final year for N2UW will be busy—with 3 large NSF campaigns scheduled between early 2021 and spring 2022. The first, SWEX, a campaign to study ‘Sundowner’ wind storms near Santa Barbara, CA, was originally scheduled for spring of this year, but was postponed and re-scheduled for April/May of 2021. Following that, the

King Air will be based out of Laramie to investigate methane emissions from cattle feedlots during APART. The current schedule calls for the last King Air deployment to be to Barrow, AK, in early 2022. As part of our $15.8 million Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (MSRI) grant to develop the nextgeneration UW King Air, we recently purchased a low-hour 2013 King Air 350i aircraft (s/n FL-862, pictured below). Following its purchase, the avionics were upgraded to the modern Garmin-1000 system. The aircraft is now at Avcon Industries facilities in Newton, Kansas where it will undergo significant modifications including the installation of the heavyweight landing gear, upgrade to PT-67A engines, and

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all the necessary ports and structure to support our atmospheric sensors. This aircraft will be more capable than N2UW, with additional ports, larger payload, more power, and longer endurance. We are also working on new versions of our cloud radars, new Raman and Doppler lidars (through collaboration with Prof. Zhien Wang at CU), new trace gas and aerosol capabilities, and a powerful aircraft-toground communication system. The NSF-funded community is looking forward to this aircraft coming into service in 2023. The new aircraft is essential to the strategic vision of the Department of Atmospheric Science to retain national prominence in airborne atmospheric observations, an expertise that uniquely defines us. We believe that the nextgeneration UW King Air will be a resource for the department’s faculty and students, for the state of Wyoming, and for the NSF-funded community for decades to come, in research areas such as air quality, fugitive emissions, wildfires, severe storms, winter weather and cloud processes affecting water availability. Progress with the next-generation UW King Air can be tracked at

MESSAGE FROM BART GEERTS, DEPARTMENT HEAD Greetings and welcome to the Laramie High Tidings during pandemic times. The State of Wyoming has seen its budget shrink considerably since the pandemic started, and the university (UW) has been informed about a reduction in its state funding. Not surprisingly, during the past summer and the current Fall semester, UW has been dealing almost exclusively with the pandemic and the prospect of downsizing. I must say, I am most impressed with the way these chocks to the system are being handled by the University, and its new President. The Dept. of Atmospheric Science is not unaffected, but the impact of the budget reduction effort should be relatively small because our research operation is entirely externally funded. Thinking ahead past the pandemic, our future is bright, with the prospect of a new research aircraft, plans for a new supercomputer to replace Cheyenne at the NCAR Wyoming Supercomputer Center, a new faculty member who joined us this Fall (see below), an outstanding group of graduate students, and growth in the team of research scientists, engineers and technicians supporting the aircraft and other facilities. Taking a broad view, these are exciting times in the Department... I want to extend my congratulations to Prof. Jeff French for successfully leading the aircraft acquisition effort and the aircraft modification contract. Funding for UWKA-2 did not entirely come from NSF, at least not directly, and Dr. French craftfully marshalled the project through various stages of UW approval,

notwithstanding the upheaval UW is facing. We have much work in front of us with the integration, testing, and certification of the new aircraft and its instruments. I count on the entire team to make the next-generation King Air a success!

Welcome to Professor Daniel Mccoy

We were fortunate to be joined this fall by Assistant Professor Daniel McCoy. Dr. McCoy joined the department, in the midst of the pandemic, following four years of post-doctoral research at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science at the University of Leeds with Paul Field. He completed his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science at the University of Washington in 2016, working with Dr. Dennis Hartmann. Dr. McCoy’s research is in cloud physics with a focus on aerosol-cloud interactions and cloud feedbacks from a modeling and remote sensing perspective. He graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology with highest honors, and his PhD was supported by a DoD NDSEG fellowship to investigate extratropical cloud feedback. He has been awarded the Nature Climate Change early career presentation award. Dr. McCoy is excited to be joining the Department: “It is a great opportunity for me to work in a premier research center of cloud physics offering one of the largest per-scientist allocations of supercomputer time in the world, and the ability to work with researchers in the new UW King Air facility.” Dr. McCoy enjoys hiking and backpacking and looks forward to trying snowshoeing this winter in Laramie. These interests are shared by his wife, Dr. de Sousa Oliveira, who has joined the UW Chemistry Department faculty as an Assistant Professor.

Dr. McCoy exploring the Ggantija ruins in Malta.

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UW Department of Atmospheric Science


Many of you may not have heard about the Mullen Fire that burned in the Medicine Bow mountains southwest of Laramie starting rather late in the season, after a warm, dry summer, but also, surprisingly, after the first snow had fallen (and melted). This fire was headline news in Laramie for a while.


The fire started in the Savage Run wilderness area on the west side of the mountains, on 17 September 2020, and spread east and south from there. When wildland fire events the size of the Mullen Fire affect a community, it takes a large and diverse group of professionals, volunteers and community members to help. Federal incident management teams (IMT) utilize every resource available to meet the objectives of keeping people and property safe while minimizing a fire’s impact on forest resources and the environment. Local volunteers are critical to these efforts and the Atmospheric Science Department (ATSC) is just one UW department whose employees are actively engaged in fighting the Mullen Fire or assisting those impacted by it. ATSC members Brett Wadsworth and Matt Burkhart put their training as volunteer firefighters to use assisting with structure protection and suppression activities during the ongoing fire. Brett Wadsworth is Chief of the Vedauwoo Volunteer Fire Department and dispatches as what the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) terms an Engine Boss – somebody who is responsible for directing the crew of a wildland fire engine, while ensuring their safety and the resource’s operational performance. Brett is also the ATSC Chief Pilot and Flight Center Director, positions that require ensuring the safety of the Wyoming King Air crew while operating the airborne research platform to effectively meet scientific research objectives. These two positions have similar objectives in safety and operational performance; thus, the training and experiences gained in each are mutually beneficial. Understanding the aviation component of wildland firefighting improves operational success when using these resource types for suppression and when conducting research with the King Air near an active incident. Matt Burkhart is a firefighter and EMT with the Big Laramie Valley Volunteer Fire Department and a Senior Research Scientist in ATSC. Weather forecasts, fire behavior models, and in-situ observations are keys to maintaining safety on the fireground and developing effective data-driven operational plans.

Understanding the data that goes into the models and being familiar with the instruments and methods used to acquire it gives insight into the suppression methods employed and the areas of the fire where suppression activities are appropriate and can occur safely and effectively. Likewise, “boots on the ground” experiences help in developing more effective instruments, sampling strategies and observational deployments, which strengthen the role that the Department has in improving our understanding of wildfire behavior and its environmental and health effects. The UWKA and ATSC faculty continue to be involved in research to study forest fires and their atmospheric and human health effects. Having members of the Department who are intimately familiar with the operational aspects of these incidents improves the ability of the King Air Facility and the Department’s mobile research labs to make cutting-edge observational measurements in a safe and effective manner. Laramie High Tidings | 3


The Department has been trying to gain a better understanding of atmospheric impacts from wildfires for some time, ever since Associate Professor Shane Murphy and the UW King Air crew participated in the NSF-funded WECAN / BB-FLUX campaigns in Idaho in 2018. Such research has been centered upon big picture climate issues, in particular radiative forcing of brown carbon. The Mullen fire heavily impacted Laramie’s air quality. If ever there is an immediate, tangible connection between climate and air quality, it is when dealing with breathing unhealthy air. The protections afforded by the influence of the Clean Air Act are quickly negated when downwind of such a large fire. The extreme impacts upon Laramie have shown the benefits of the citizen science Purple Air network that links together dedicated dualchannel PM2.5 measurements. Senior Research Scientist Dr. Robert Field placed the first Purple air sensor in Wyoming at his long-term continuous background air quality station at a remote site west of Saratoga. Together with Research Scientist Matt Burkhart, Murphy and Field have installed 3 real-timereporting sensors in Laramie. Field has recently instigated an MoU with the City of Laramie to build a small local area network. Before next “fire season”, we anticipate at least 8 active sensors across the Laramie valley. Todd Feezer, Assistant City Manager, commented “the City of Laramie is proud to have partnered with UW to provide another means for our residents to access information related to our air quality and their health and safety.” The Figure below shows the daily average Air Quality Index (AQI) values from a Purple Air sensor on top of the UW Engineering building, during

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the 2020 wildfire season. It shows many spells of hazardous levels (AQI>300) of air pollution in a place where we are so accustomed to good air quality. As part of a separate initiative to include undergraduates, a School of Energy Resources student, Tori Strom, is working on an inter-comparison of data from Purple Air sensors with more established EPA-approved methods, that Field started collecting in 2018. The quality of the data from the low cost Purple Air sensors has been impressive. While not EPAapproved, our on-going comparison has shown the real-time data can be used to make informed decisions about outdoor activities. The air quality as expressed through a derived Air Quality Index has confirmed the hazardous air quality that the citizens of Laramie have suffered from in recent times. It also highlights how great the air quality usually is within our region. For Field this has also been a wake-up call, as he plans to place more Purple Air sensors around the state as part of his air quality outreach efforts with K-12 schools, as UW strives to be better connected with communities around the State.

UW Department of Atmospheric Science

King Air Deployments in 2020 By David Plummer

With the postponement of a major NSF-funded King Air deployment this spring on account of the pandemic, we only conducted a few short, local projects focused on testing new instruments and systems installed in the aircraft, both for our own facility and for outside investigators. On UW’s end, in-flight testing took place with the Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS), a dropsonde system. This system’s first use in a research project is expected next spring, in the Sundowner Winds Experiment (SWEX). We also acquired and tested several new instruments this year, i.e. two static pressure transducers, an LWC-301 hotwire probe to measure liquid water content, and a High Volume Particle Spectrometer (HVPS) to improve the facility’s capability to measure cloud and precipitation particles.

Example imagery from the 2D-Stereo optical array probe (above) and the HVPS (below) at similar locations in cloud, showing the complementary differences in size and resolution between the two instruments.

We also supported two projects for non-NSF investigators, providing measurements to help validate new analysis techniques and to support instrumentation development. The first, MONARK, was in cooperation with investigators from Airbus and Night Crew Labs. This project was focused on validating an analysis technique using GPS signal occultation to derive profiles of water vapor content in the atmosphere. These flights focused on making lengthy passes through clear air, in order to obtain GPS signals from many satellites, to derive water vapor profiles. Airbus hopes that in the not too distant future, the aviation industry will make these measurements routinely on commercial flights, to improve data assimilation and weather prediction. The second small project, conducted for Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc., and Droplet Measurement Technologies, aimed to test an experimental instrument, the Holographic Cloud Particle Imager (HCPI). Holographic imagers are capable of providing information about the spacing, shapes and sizes of multiple particles within a volume, complementing the imagery of individual particles obtained by traditional optical array probes such as the HVPS. These flights were focused on obtaining HCPI measurements within a wide variety of convective clouds, making measurements alongside our standard microphysics probes. This provided a wealth of information about the characteristics of the clouds sampled during the flights, providing valuable context with which to evaluate the holographic imagery.

Two HCPI images of ice particles. The white scale bar in the lower right represents 0.1 mm. (images courtesy of Daniel McAdams, Radiation Monitoring Devices, Inc.)

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(Left to right) Dana Caulton, Dave Plummer, and Ed Sigel onboard the UWKA, September 2020.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cattle Feedlots Assistant Profesor Dr. Dana Caulton has been eyeing the UW King Air in her quest to quantify emissions of certain greenhouse gases from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and other sources. Dr. Caulton first deployed the UWKA in November 2019 for a preliminary survey of such emissions from agricultural and animal operations in the Colorado Front Range, in a project dubbed APART-lite. The aircraft flew downwind of high-emitting CAFOs, from near surface level to the top of the boundary layer, sampling ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4) and ethane (C2H6) for a total of ~12 flight hours. This project successfully showcased the ability to identify CAFO ammonia and methane signals in a complicated region with some interfering signals of methane. This work has led to NSF’s funding for the Ammonia Phase Partitioning and Transport (APART), a joint project between UW (Dr. Dana Caulton) and Colorado State University (Dr. Emily Fischer). During this project, scheduled to take place in Fall 2021, the aircraft will survey a greater number of CAFOs, quantify their emissions of ammonia and methane, and track the transport and deposition of ammonia during a total of 100 flight hours. In addition, Dr. Caulton led a short campaign (~6 flight hours), FLUX20, in September 2020. This project tested the capabilities of a new CO2 and CH4 eddy covariance flux system for the aircraft over the Pawnee Grassland is Northern Colorado. The aircraft flew low level flight patterns near a flux tower in the region, with the goal of comparing the new instrument results to the tower measurements.

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Our New Executive Business Manager, Nikki Stotler started on 1 April 2020, replacing Nicole Lawrence. Nikki grew up in Wheatland, WY and moved to Laramie to attend the University of Wyoming in 2003. She graduated in 2007 with her B.S. in Business Administration and then in 2015 with her Executive Master’s of Business Administration, both from UW. She worked in local credit unions for 12 years doing consumer and mortgage lending before making the career switch to UW in 2019. She has two young sons, Cameron (11) and Carter (9). She is excited to keep learning the complicated systems and management the department requires and learning more about the research. Around the time of Daniel McCoy’s arrival in Laramie this past summer, in the midst of the pandemic, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) published an article titled “The hemispheric contrast in cloud microphysical properties constrains aerosol forcing” ( pnas.1922502117), with Daniel and his sister Isabel as lead authors. Isabel recently received her PhD, also from the University of Washington, and is starting a NOAA Climate and Global Change postdoc at RSMAS at the University of Miami. Congratulations to the McCoy family! The SNOWIE team published another noteworthy paper this year, also in PNAS. This paper ( pnas.1917204117) demonstrates, for the first time, a quantifiable impact of glaciogenic cloud seeding on precipitation on the ground. SNOWIE stands for Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment, a project in which in the King Air with WCR and WCL was involved. SNOWIE research continues, with a follow-up NSF grant led by Jeff French funded. Bart Geerts was elected Fellow of the American Meteorological Society at the 100th AMS Annual Meeting in Boston, back in January. Last but not least, you all know about the Department’s long tradition of a pig roast and picnic in September at Hidden Valley in Happy Jack, just east of Laramie. This year, the pandemic forced us to cancel this event. Keep it in mind for next September! It is always a good place to meet up with old friends and learn what is happening in the Department.


Six new graduate students joined us this Fall semester: • J eff Nivitanont, with a M.Sc. from the University of Oklahoma (Advisor: Shane Murphy)

UW Department of Atmospheric Science

DEPARTMENT •H arrison Rademacher, with a B.Sc. from the University of North Dakota (Advisor: Shane Murphy) •K evin Shaffer, with a B.Sc. from the University of Wyoming (Advisor: Jeff French) •C i Song, with a B.Sc. from Chengdu University of Information Technology, PRC (Advisor: Daniel McCoy) •C huyan Tan, with a B.Sc. from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, PRC (Advisor: Daniel McCoy) •G eethma Werapitiya, with a B.Sc. from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Advisor: Daniel McCoy) The last three students still are in their home countries, for the time being, given the pandemic travel restrictions, but that has not stopped them from starting their graduate assistantships. Welcome to all!

clouds, i.e., the large scale droplet spatial tendencies near cloud edge that arise from the entrainment of dry air. My PhD research is focused on small scale (millimeter to centimeter) droplet clustering within stratocumulus clouds, along with focusing on marine boundary layer processes, in particular turbulence. I hope to finish my PhD in Dec. of 2021.”

We did not see any PhD students graduate this past spring/ summer. We happened to have 7 PhD graduates last year, and several students are planning on defending their dissertation in the current academic year. Congratulations to the following M.Sc. graduates in the last year: •M artin Espitalie, M.Sc. (Summer 2020) International M.Sc. degree in Atmospheric Science, jointly with Université Clermont Auvergne, in France: “The relationship between commonly used flow blocking parameters and the actual flow near real mountains: a case study for the Wind River Range in Wyoming.” •S helby Fuller, M.Sc. (Summer 2020): “Improvement of the Snowfall / Reflectivity Relationship for W-band Radars.” •C hristian Lackner, M.Sc. (Summer 2020) International M.Sc. degree in Atmospheric Science, jointly with Johannes Goteburg Universität, in Germany” “Impact of global warming on snow in ski areas: A case study using a regional climate simulation over the interior western United States.” •S hou Zehui, M.Sc. (Summer 2020) Joint M.Sc. degree in Atmospheric Science between Chengdu University of Information Technology (China) and UW: “Assimilation of Doppler Weather Radar Data for a Hail Event in Bayannaur, China.”

Jason Sulskis (M.Sc. 2016) also went back to his old job, at Northrop Grumman in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, He now works as a A.I. Systems Engineer on atmospheric modeling in the context of laser propagation through atmospheric turbulence and also meteorological and atmospheric effects in mission modeling. At the same time, he is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Computer Science specializing in Machine Learning, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. He is studying the dynamics of the anti-vaccination movement on Twitter using clustering and topic modeling. Meanwhile, he is also studying the theory and methods of what is called Causual Reinforcement Learning, where one combines the paradigms of Reinforcement Learning (learning by doing through the maximization of some notion of cumulative reward) and Causual Inference (the why of things and separating “causation vs. correlation”) to create more robust learning agents for a variety of systems – which could include atmospheric probes and cloud radar/lidar. He mentions he adopted a nutty rat terrier/Jack Russel mix named Molley, and that he is missing the quiet life of Laramie.


We heard from several of our alumni: Dillion Dodson completed a B.Sc. in Earth System Science, concentration Atmospheric Science, in 2015, the last year we offered that degree. (We had to terminate the degree program because it never garnered a critical mass of students.) Dillon writes: “Since then, I received my Master’s in Atmospheric Science from the University of Hawaii, Manoa in 2017 and am currently a PhD candidate at the same University. My Master’s research focused on cloud droplet inhomogeneities in cumulus

Sharon Sullivan (M.Sc. 2017) started with the National Weather Service in September 2017 in Juneau, Alaska and transferred to her preferred location, her hometown Albuquerque, in October 2018. She has been writing for a weather blog on the side and recently presented at the (virtual) Texas Weather Conference, re-hashing an old project she had worked on during her undergrad volunteer days at the same NWS office in her hometown.

Adam Tripp (M.Sc. 2016) writes: “For the past 3 years, I have been working as a Data Scientist and Statistician in Laramie for Plenty, an indoor agriculture startup with headquarters based in the Silicon Valley. I have received several promotions during my tenure here and now manage two teams – a data team comprised of four data scientists and a farm systems team comprised of 10+ technicians. I work alongside worldrenown plant scientists to design and run statistically-powered experiments aimed at optimizing plant growth in an indoor environment. Our ultimate aim is to build the world’s first fullyautomated commercial-scale indoor farm in order to provide the future populace with nutritious, locally-grown food. My atmospheric science experience (in addition to my background in mathematics and education) provides a great lens for measuring,

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monitoring, and manipulating environmental input data (e.g., temp, RH, lighting intensity/spectrum) to significantly optimize plant-response outputs (e.g., yield and flavor). We also employ a great deal of remote sensing principles and machine learning as we develop industry-leading AI algorithms to make our farms smarter and more autonomous. With the pandemic, more people than ever are eating at home leading to grocery produce sales being at an all-time high. As a result, my research is getting injected with a great deal of funding. Plenty continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in funding (mainly from Japan’s Soft Bank), and we recently signed a novel multi-year agreement with Albertsons.” Adam recently was selected as one of Laramie’s Top 20 Young Professionals Under 40 for 2019. Impressive! Adam exemplifies our service to Laramie and Wyoming… Dan Welsh (M.Sc. 2016) started as an Air Quality Meteorologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment upon graduation. He issues air quality forecasts for the entirety of Colorado, which has kept him pretty busy, especially with all the fires of recent. He is personally responsible for air quality exceedance events that involve blowing dust or ozone. As an extension of his work with upper atmospheric phenomenon (tropopause folds/stratospheric intrusions) and their impact on surface air quality, he has partnered with CU Boulder and NASA to help to integrate remote sensing and ground-based air quality observations into high-resolution air quality models. Another new collaboration involves a group of agencies seeking to support various aspects of the NASA TEMPO satellite probe, to be launched in 2022 (TEMPO stands for Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring POllution). Dan’s role with TEMPO is to support case study development aiming to aid in data visualization for both synthetic imagery prior to launch, and product familiarity and application once real data starts coming in. This group will also work to develop training strategies and materials aimed at connecting remote sensing (satellite) researchers and products to end-users, including those in public health management and healthcare managers who are likely unfamiliar with these instruments/products.

Sara Lynn Fults (M.Sc. 2016) has been working for International Trip Planning Services as a Meteorologist and Flight Planner in Houston, Texas. Because Covid19 had such an impact on aviation, she was temporarily laid off in summer, during which time she did house remodelling work. She is also getting started as a consultant with Anchored Dynamics, a business started by a friend. Anchored Dynamics provides climate scenario analyses to businesses. Xiaoqin Jing (PhD 2018) is an assistant professor of Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in China. She writes: “My current research focuses on observing and modeling orographic cloud and precipitation, as well as cloud seeding. In addition, I teach “Atmospheric Physics”, “Weather Modification” and “Skills for Environmental Research” for undergraduate students. The pandemic was a big issue before June, no field measurements were allowed, and all the courses were taught online. Now the pandemic has been well controlled in China, so currently no impact on my research.” Her husband Jing Yang (PhD 2018) also is an assistant professor at NUIST. He teaches “Cloud Physics and Precipitation” and “Atmospheric Physics”. His research area hasn’t changed a lot since his PhD, still focusing on microphysics and dynamics in clouds. Katy Christian (M.Sc. 2017) has been working at the Warning Decision Training Division in the National Weather Center at the University of Oklahoma (OU). She trains NWS personnel in warning operations. Her area of expertise is flash flooding. She has been teleworking from home since March, like most of us. And last but not least, Katy’s husband Jordan Christian (PhD 2017) is coming close to defending his PhD at OU (he will defend on 11/6). While Katy focuses on flash floods, Jordan has been studying flash droughts. Hard to conceive of such thing in Wyoming. Following a successful defense, Jordan will assume a postdoc position at OU, as part of a NSF-funded project focused on subseasonal to seasonal weather and climate features across Oklahoma. While being stuck at home, Katy and Jordan got themselves a golden retriever puppy. We’d love to hear from you. If you have something new to share with the Department and other alumni, post it on our FaceBook page, or email Charlotte While at

HOW TO give TO THE UW DEPARTMENT OF ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE Click here. Choose your amount and make sure to check the Department of Atmospheric Science! Unless you check the “anonymous donation” box on the same box, you will be recognized in the next issue of the Laramie High Tidings. Please contact us ( if you’d like to further discuss donating to the Department. Make the difference you like to see. Thanks!