NASA

January 11, 2013

NASA chases climate change clues into the stratosphere

Starting this month, NASA will send a remotely piloted research aircraft as high as 65,000 feet over the tropical Pacific Ocean to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers to how changing in a warming climate is changing Earth.

The first flights of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year airborne science campaign with a heavily instrumented Global Hawk aircraft, will take off from and be operated by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Global Hawk is able to make 30-hour flights.

Water vapor and ozone in the stratosphere can have a large impact on our planet’s climate. The processes that drive the rise and fall of these compounds, especially water vapor, are not well understood. This limits scientists’ ability to predict how these changes will influence global climate in the future. ATTREX will study moisture and chemical composition in the upper regions of the troposphere, the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The troposphere ranges from about 8 miles to 11 miles above Earth’s surface. As the point where water vapor, ozone and other gases enter the stratosphere, it controls the composition.

Studies have shown even small changes in stratospheric humidity may have significant climate impacts. Predictions of stratospheric humidity changes are uncertain because of gaps in the understanding of the physical processes occurring in the tropical tropopause layer. ATTREX will use the Global Hawk to carry instruments to sample the tropical tropopause near the equator off the coast of Central America.

“The ATTREX payload will provide unprecedented measurements of the tropical tropopause,” said Eric Jensen, ATTREX principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “This is our first opportunity to sample the tropopause region during winter in the northern hemisphere when the troposphere is coldest and extremely dry air enters the stratosphere.”

Led by Jensen and project manager Dave Jordan of Ames, ATTREX scientists installed 11 instruments in the Global Hawk. The instruments include remote sensors for measuring clouds, trace gases and temperatures above and below the aircraft, as well as instruments to measure water vapor, cloud properties, meteorological conditions, radiation fields and numerous trace gases around the aircraft. Engineering test flights conducted in 2011 ensured the aircraft and instruments operated well at the very cold temperatures encountered at high altitudes in the tropics, which can reach minus 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Six science flights are planned between Jan. 16 and March 15. The ATTREX team also is planning remote deployments to Guam and Australia in 2014. Scientists hope to use the acquired data to improve global model predictions of stratospheric humidity and composition.

The ATTREX team consists of investigators from Ames and three other NASA facilities; the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The team also includes investigators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Center for Atmospheric Research, academia, and private industry.

ATTREX is one of the first investigations in NASA’s new Venture-class series of low- to moderate-cost projects. The Earth Venture missions are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program managed by Langley. These small, targeted science investigations complement NASA’s larger science research satellite missions.

 

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

News Briefs April 24, 2015

“Edwards Got Talent” contest April 24 Edwards Family Advocacy will hold an “Edwards Got Talent” competition at the Oasis Community Center April 24. The show starts at 5:30 p.m. and will end at 7:30 p.m. Anyone with access to Edwards AFB and their family members are invited to come and show off their talent! The...
 
 
Courtesy photograph by Liz Jacobson

Ten seconds later and that picture still exists

Courtesy photograph by Liz Jacobson Teenagers may feel a false sense of anonymity and security when using Internet apps, which can lead to an increasing number of teenagers sending inappropriate content. Irresponsible sharing o...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

Second X-56A MUTT makes first flight

NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich NASA researchers are using the X-56A, a low-cost, modular, remotely piloted aerial vehicle, to explore the behavior of lightweight, flexible aircraft structures. Researchers at NASA’s Armstrong ...
 

 
afaf

AFAF campaign extended

Air Force photograph by Rebecca Amber The Edwards Air Force Base 2015 Air Force Assistance Fund Campaign has been extended an additional two weeks to May 15. If you would like to donate, contact your Unit Project Officer. For q...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Samuel King Jr.

An Edwards NCO’s journey to wounded warrior mentorship

Air Force photograph by Samuel King Jr. Tech. Sgt. Ryan Delaney, an Air Force Wounded Warrior mentor, watches Tremayne Maxwell, an Air Force Wounded Warrior athlete, perfect his wheelchair basketball rolling skills during the f...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara

F-22 test squadron recognizes decorated squadron member, Vietnam hero

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara William Freckleton, 412th Range Squadron lead F-22 range control officer, poses before his F-16D incentive flight April 21. Freckleton is the only decorated Vietnam veteran at the 411th Flight...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>