Tech

January 10, 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 a warming climate is changing Earth.

The first flights of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, 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 Earth’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 tropopause layer between the troposphere and stratosphere, 8 miles to 11 miles above Earth’s surface, is the point where water vapor, ozone and other gases enter the stratosphere.

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 this layer 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 it 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.


 
 

 
darpa-notice

DARPA Tactical Technology Office invites innovative risk-takers to attend 2014 Office-Wide Proposers Day

DARPAs Tactical Technology Office invests in innovative platforms, weapons, integrated systems and critical systems components that often incorporate emerging advanced technologies, all designed to preserve and extend decisive ...
 
 

AFRL provides environmentally-preferred alternatives for removing radome coatings

Radomes, tail cones, and other fiberglass or composite components on E-3, KC-135, and B-52 aircraft are coated with polyurethane rain erosion resistant coatings to protect them from the effects of rain erosion in flight. Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) production workers must remove the coatings during depot overhaul to allow for inspection and repair....
 
 
darpa-uav-network

Remote troops closer to having high-speed wireless networks mounted on UAVs

Missions in remote, forward operating locations often suffer from a lack of connectivity to tactical operation centers and access to valuable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data. The assets needed for long-range...
 

 
Photograph courtesy of Research Center for Marine Geosciences/DLR

NASA signs agreement with German, Canadian partners to test alternative fuels

NASA photograph A heavily instrumented NASA HU-25 Falcon measures chemical components from the larger DC-8′s exhaust generated by a 50/50 mix of conventional jet fuel and a plant-derived biofuel, demonstrating the type of...
 
 
darpa-phoenix2

Phoenix makes strides in orbital robotics, satellite architecture research

The process of designing, developing, building and deploying satellites is long and expensive. Satellites today cannot follow the terrestrial paradigm of “assemble, repair, upgrade, reuse,” and must be designed to operate w...
 
 

AFRL researchers uncover structural, function relationships in bioinspired nanomaterials

In his 1954 work, The Nature of Science, Edwin Powell Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” During his tenure with the Air Force Research Laboratory, National Research Council associate Dr. Nick Bedford, embarked on such an adventure that applied both biological and physical...
 




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>