NASA scientists are leading an airborne field experiment to a warm tropical locale to take a close look at a largely unexplored region of the chilly upper atmosphere. This area is critical to the recovery of the ozone layer and predicting future climate change. This very cold region far above the Earth’s equator (54,000 feet), a few miles higher than commercial aircraft can fly, is the main pathway where the lower part of the atmosphere, known as the troposphere, flows into the stratosphere.
High-altitude flights by a NASA aircraft based in Costa Rica during the month-long field campaign are being choreographed with the orbits of Aura, NASA’s latest Earth-observing spacecraft. Launched in 2004, Aura helps scientists understand how atmospheric composition affects and responds to Earth’s changing climate. The satellite helps to reveal the processes that connect local and global air quality, and also tracks the extent the Earth’s protective ozone layer is recovering.
In concert with global observations from Aura, the Costa Rica Aura Validation Experiment (CR-AVE) is tackling some of the remaining puzzles about how ozone-destroying chemicals get into the stratosphere and how high-altitude clouds affect the flow of one of the most powerful greenhouse gases -- water -- into this critical region. The project is an integrated science and satellite validation campaign sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Paul Newman, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Eric Jensen, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., orchestrate the field activities as CR-AVE project scientists.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
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