Tech

May 17, 2012

NASA campaign studying chemistry of thunderstorms

The DC3 mission is investigating the chemistry of thunderstorms, such as this one in Kansas being studied by a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NASA researchers are about to fly off on a campaign that will take them into the heart of thunderstorm country.

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry field campaign will use an airport in Salina, Kansas, as a base to explore the impact of large thunderstorms on the concentration of ozone and other substances in the upper troposphere.

The campaign is being led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

“Thunderstorms provide a mechanism for rapid lifting of air from the surface to higher altitudes in a matter of minutes to hours,” said James Crawford of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and a member of the mission’s scientific steering committee.

NASA’s DC-8 Earth Science laboratory sports numerous probes for collecting atmospheric samples. The aircraft, based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., is ready to participate in the DC3 campaign.

“This allows molecules that are short-lived and more abundant near the surface to be transported to the upper troposphere in amounts that could not happen under normal atmospheric conditions,” he said.

Additional chemical impacts come from the production of nitrogen oxides by lightning, but the details of these processes are not well understood.

“All of this together has an influence on ozone in the coldest part of the atmosphere where it exerts the largest influence on climate,” Crawford said. “Of the chemicals we’ll be studying, nitrogen oxides in particular are key to the creation of ozone and are produced both naturally by lightning and by human activity through the burning of fossil fuels.”

The campaign is scheduled to run May 15 to June 30. NASA partners include Langley, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. and Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif.

The troposphere is the lowest part of the atmosphere, extending from the ground up to an average depth of 11 miles in the middle latitudes. It contains about 80 percent of the atmosphere’s mass and 99 percent of its water vapor. This region is important because water vapor, ozone, cirrus clouds and particles such as dust contribute to the amount of radiation – heat – allowed in and out of the atmosphere, and have a direct impact on the climate system.

“We tend to associate thunderstorms with heavy rain and lightning, but they also shake things up at the top of cloud level,” said NCAR scientist Chris Cantrell, a DC3 principal investigator. “Their impacts high in the atmosphere have effects on climate that last long after the storm dissipates.”

 

Flights cover several states

During the mission, a NASA DC-8 carrying more than 20 instruments measuring scores of substances will make far-reaching flights out of Salina in coordination with a network of ground-based radar, lightning antenna stations and instrumentation in Colorado, Oklahoma and Alabama. The aircraft’s home is Dryden Flight Research Center.

The DC-8 is flying in tandem with the NSF/NCAR Gulfstream-V, a higher-flying aircraft able to more consistently reach the altitudes where outflow from deep convection deposits material.

The DC-8 will sample outflow when possible, but more importantly will focus on lower altitude inflow conditions, and on pre- and post-storm changes in how material is distributed with altitude. Its range will also enable it to sample outflow downwind of storms to examine chemical changes induced by the lifted material.

NASA’s DC-8 will carry more than 20 instruments on the DC3 mission to investigation thunderstorms.

The principal investigators are from NCAR, Pennsylvania State University and Colorado State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and numerous university and partners and international collaborators. German scientists will bring yet a third plane, a Dassault Falcon.

The DC3 mission is related to another airborne campaign examining the role of deep convection in transporting material from the surface to the upper atmosphere. The DC-8 and Gulfstream-V will both participate in the Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study mission that will take place in August and September this year from a base in Thailand.




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


 
 

 
NASA photograph by David Alexander

NASA MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft completes visual, radar mission in Hawaii

NASA photograph “Ikhana,” NASA’s MQ-9 remotely piloted research aircraft, carries a maritime radar in a specialized centerline pod during a flight to check out systems prior to the aircraft’s deployment ...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA Armstrong’s space shuttle Mate-Demate Device coming down

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida The space shuttle Mate-Demate Device that stood as an iconic symbol of NASA’s now-concluded Space Shuttle Program at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center for 38 years is being dismantled af...
 
 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 

 

NASA picks top Earth data challenge ideas, opens call for climate apps

NASA has selected four ideas from the public for innovative uses of climate projections and Earth-observing satellite data. The agency also has announced a follow-on challenge with awards of $50,000 to build climate applications based on OpenNEX data on the Amazon cloud computing platform. Both challenges use the Open NASA Earth Exchange, or OpenNEX, a...
 
 
nasa-flying-lab

NASA’s flying laboratories study our world

Throughout the remainder of 2014, NASA is flying a series of airborne research campaigns from the North Pole to the South Pole and many points in between ñ to take a closer look at U.S. air quality, hurricanes in the Atlantic ...
 
 

NASA selects proposals to increase STEM education at community, technical colleges

NASA’s Office of Education will award more than $17.3 million through the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at community colleges and technical schools across the United States. Each award has a two-year performance period and a maximum value of $500,000. The 35...
 




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>