This huge thunderstorm supercell was photographed from NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory as it flew at an altitude of 40,000 feet southwest of Oklahoma City, Ok., during a DC3 mission flight May 19. The flight crew estimated the top of the thunderhead's anvil extended above 45,000 feet altitude. (NASA / Frank Cutler)
A complex environmental science campaign employing ground, airborne and space-based sensors to aid scientists' understanding of how large thunderstorms affect atmospheric chemistry began in earnest the weekend of May 18-19.
The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry, or DC3, field campaign is being led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., with additional funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA.
The DC3 campaign is employing several modified aircraft, satellites, ground-based radar, and lightning antenna stations to explore the impact of large thunderstorms on the concentration of ozone and other substances in the upper troposphere over the central and southern United States.
After several shakedown and practice flights over the two prior weeks, NASA's DC-8 airborne science flying laboratory and a Gulfstream V operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) flew science missions May 18 and 19. Twenty-seven specialized instruments installed in the DC-8 sampled storm inflow as the aircraft flew a series of L-shaped patterns at different altitudes around thunderstorm cells.
The May 18 flight focused on the areas of northeast Colorado near Greeley and southwest Nebraska. In addition to the L-patterned flight legs, the DC-8 transited to the downwind side of the storm system and flew four steps of a ladder pattern in the cirrus clouds of a storm anvil. The NCAR G-V flew at higher altitude than the DC-8 downwind of storms during this same period, according to DC-8 mission manager Frank Cutler.
On May 19, the two aircraft flew to an area west and northwest of Oklahoma City, Okla., and performed similar flight profiles as the prior day, including data collection around a huge thunderstorm "supercell" whose anvil top reached an estimated 45,000 feet high. Cutler noted that the mission was "very challenging and successful," and mission scientists were very pleased with the data collected from instruments on the aircraft and on the ground during the flight.
The DC3 airborne science mission is based at Salina, Kan. NASA's DC-8 is scheduled to return to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., June 30.
NASA's DC-8 Airborne Science laboratory is seen during a checkout flight over California's Mojave Desert. The aircraft is sporting a number of probes supporting a large upload of science instruments installed for the Deep Convective clouds and Chemistry weather study. (NASA / Lori Losey)
Learn more about DC3 thunderstorm campaign at: