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May 29, 1998

David E. Steitz
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1730)

Catherine Watson
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
(Phone: 757/864-6121)

Kirsten Williams
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
(Phone: 805/258-2662)

NASA HQ RELEASE: 98-89

FIRE AND ICE: ARCTIC EXPEDITION PROBES ROLE OF CLOUDS IN CLIMATE CHANGE

An ice-breaking ship, research airplanes, space satellites and an international team of scientists are converging in the Alaskan Arctic this month to learn more about global climate change through the study of clouds and radiation of the Sun during the spring and summer.

The FIRE Arctic Cloud Experiment ( FIRE/ACE) is studying a variety of cloud systems in a two-phase campaign April 7 through June 13 and July 6 through 30. FIRE (First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project Regional Experiment) is led by NASA, in collaboration with other government and private organizations, and will take place in Alaska in the Beaufort Sea and in the skies over the coastal town of Barrow.

"We know very little about Arctic clouds and how they interact with the polar surface and atmosphere," said NASA Langley's Dr. Patrick Minnis, FIRE project scientist. "The data from FIRE/ACE will provide the opportunity to greatly expand our knowledge of the Arctic climate -- an important component in any global climate change scenario.

"The ultimate goal is to learn enough to more accurately forecast global climate change," Minnis added. "The better we can understand it, the more we'll be able to determine the possible effects of potential global change, such as iceberg melting and coastline flooding."

The current campaign will use four aircraft, numerous Earth-bound instruments and six orbiting satellites to take measurements of clouds from high above them, inside them, and below them.

A ER-2 airplane, based at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA,is scheduled to arrive in Alaska in mid-May. During missions the aircraft will fly at about 70,000 feet with a suite of remote sensors to study clouds that form in the vicinity of "leads" -- large cracks that expose water -- and melt ponds.

Three other aircraft will participate as well. A University of Washington CV-580, a National Center for Atmospheric Research C-130, and a Canada National Research Council Convair CV-580 will use a variety of instruments to take measurements "in situ," or inside the clouds.

Additionally the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker vessel, the "Des Groseilliers," has been frozen into the Arctic ice pack for a year as part of a climate-modeling project sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research. Scientists making measurements from the ice will share data with scientists making measurements on this spring's series of overflights.

NASA is the lead agency for FIRE. In Canada, the lead agency is the Atmospheric Environment Service of Environment Canada. Other supporting agencies are the National Research Council of Canada, and in the U.S., the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Department of Defense.

Participating will be more than 80 researchers from eight NASA centers, five U.S. agencies, 13 U.S. universities and educational consortia, and three private U.S. companies, as well as scientists from Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. FIRE is managed by the Radiation Sciences Program, Office of Earth Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. The FIRE project management is at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

Editor's Note: Beta videotape and photos of the NASA ER-2 are available from Dryden Flight Research Center. Broadcast media are invited to conduct live remote interviews via satellite with FIRE project scientist Pat Minnis. Live shots will be available from Langley Research Center on May 29, from 5:20 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. To book an interview, please call Ivelisse Gilman at 757/864-5036.

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