Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's airborne mission to explore the global atmosphere

08.07.2016

Ice sheets, deserts, rivers, islands, coasts and oceans -- the features of Earth's surface are wildly different, spread across a vast geography. The same is true for Earth's thin film of atmosphere and the mix of gases it holds, although the details are invisible to human eyes. Pollutants emitted to the atmosphere -- soot, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides -- are dispersed over the whole globe, but remote regions are cleaner, by factors of 1000 or more, than areas near the continents. A new NASA airborne campaign aims to map the contours of the atmosphere as carefully as explorers once traced the land and oceans below.

The Atmospheric Tomography, or ATom, mission is the first to survey the atmosphere over the oceans. Scientists aboard NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory will journey from the North Pole south over the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and then across to the tip of South America and north up the Atlantic Ocean to Greenland. ATom will discover how much pollution survives to the most remote corners of the earth and assess how the environment has changed as a result.


Probes on the outside of NASA's DC-8 aircraft to collect atmospheric samples. The DC-8 aircraft will be outfitted with 20 instruments for the ATom mission.

Credit: NASA

"We've had many airborne measurements of the atmosphere over land, where most pollutants are emitted, but land is only a small fraction of the planet," said Michael Prather, an atmospheric scientist and ATom's deputy project scientist at University of California Irvine.

"The oceans are where a lot of chemical reactions take place, and some of the least well understood parts are hard to get to because they are so remote. With ATom we're going to measure a wide range of chemically distinct parts of the atmosphere over the most remote areas of the ocean that have not been measured before."

While the majority of the flight path takes the DC-8 over the ocean, the science team expects to see influence from human pollution that originates on land.

"Humans produce a lot of pollution, and it doesn't just disappear when it's blown off the continents. It goes somewhere," said atmospheric scientist Steve Wofsy, ATom principal investigator at Harvard University. "We know it gets diluted in the atmosphere, it gets washed out by rain, but we want to understand the processes that do that and where and how long they take."

The suite of 20 instruments aboard the DC-8 will measure airborne particles called aerosols and more than 200 gases in each sampled air patch, documenting their locations and allowing scientists to determine interactions. The science team will use ATom's collected data on the air's chemical signatures to understand where pollutants originate, and where and how quickly these climate gases react chemically and eventually disappear from the atmosphere.

ATom is particularly interested in methane, ozone and airborne particles called black carbon, which have strong effects on climate and which all have both human and natural origins. Methane and tropospheric ozone, are two greenhouse gases that linger in the atmosphere for weeks to decades--much less time than the century that carbon dioxide remains in the air. Nevertheless, the short-term effects of methane and ozone pollution today are expected to contribute almost as much as carbon dioxide to changing the climate in the coming decades.

ATom's first flight is planned for July 28, a there-and-back trip over the tropics between Palmdale, California and the equator. On July 31, the mission begins its around-the-world trip lasting 26 days. It's the first of four deployments that will take place over the next three years in different seasons.

The data collected will be used to improve atmospheric computer models used to predict future climate conditions into the 21st century as well as to provide checks and calibration in otherwise unreachable areas for several major satellite systems, including NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) and Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) and the European Space Agency's TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI).

The ATom mission is funded by NASA Headquarters and overseen by the agency's Earth System Science Pathfinder Program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. It is one of six large airborne campaigns operating under the Earth Venture Suborbital program. ATom is led by Harvard University and managed by the Earth Science Project Office at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. The DC-8 aircraft is maintained and based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

###

Related Stories:

NASA Airborne Study Surveys Greenhouse Gases in World Tour

NASA's ATom Mission is Flying Around the World in 26 Days

Ellen Gray NASA's Earth Science News Team

Ellen Gray | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>