Tech

January 23, 2013

ATTREX campaign: Into the stratosphere for better climate science

The payload bays of NASA’s high-altitude Global Hawk environmental science aircraft are jammed with 11 specialized science instruments during checkout operations for the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, a multi-year airborne science campaign to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers to how changes in a warming climate is changing Earth.

Max Spolaor, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, adjusts the Mini-Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer, one of 11 specialized atmospheric sampling instruments installed on NASA’s Global Hawk for the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment. The multi-year ATTREX airborne science campaign will probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean for answers to how changes in a warming climate are changing Earth.

NASA is about to begin a multi-year airborne science campaign to investigate unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere and how its chemistry is changing Earth in a warming climate.

The Tropical TRopopause EXperiment (ATTREX) mission will give scientists the information they will need to better understand and predict this phenomenon.

A NASA Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned aircraft will fly missions at up to 65,000 feet altitude above the tropical Pacific Ocean, carrying a suite of specialized instruments to measure moisture and chemical composition, radiation levels, meteorological conditions, and trace gas levels. Scientists hope to collected unprecedented data from the tropopause, the boundary between the troposhere (where most weather occurs) and the stratosphere.

An instrument checkout flight was scheduled to be flown over the Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., test range from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center Jan.18, 2013, with a half-dozen science flights lasting up to 24 to 30 hours each planned over the ensuring two months during the first year of the ATTREX campaign.

A team of scientists from four NASA centers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, academia and private industry led by principal investigator Eric Jensen and project manager Dave Jordan of NASA’s Ames Research Center checked out their instruments during upload operations over a two-month period prior to the first ATTREX flight.

Maria Navarro, a post-doctoral researcher from the University of Miami, checks connections on the Advanced Whole Air Sampler instrument prior to its installation on a NASA Global Hawk aircraft. The device is one of 11 specialized atmospheric sampling instruments installed on the Global Hawk for the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment, a multi-year airborne science campaign to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers to how changes in a warming climate is changing Earth.




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