ARCTAS mission status update, April 17, 2008
The first three-week phase of an Arctic atmospheric sampling field campaign by a team of multi-agency scientists and three NASA environmental science aircraft is nearing its conclusion, with the aircraft and personnel slated to return to their respective bases beginning the weekend of April 19-20. The field campaign is part of the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites -- or ARCTAS -- a major science field campaign in 2008 to study the atmosphere in the Arctic and high northern latitudes as part of the International Polar Year, a major scientific research effort.
NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory with 35 scientists operating more than 20 sophisticated instruments was scheduled to fly a nine-hour mission Thursday, April 17, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to the North Pole and back. As with previous flights, Thursday's mission was devoted to sampling atmospheric chemical and particulate constituents at a variety of altitudes, and flying under the tracks of environmental satellites to validate data being transmitted by their instruments.
On Wednesday, the highly modified former jetliner departed Fairbanks International Airport, picked up the CALIPSO satellite track and then continued northwest to perform boundary layer runs over tundra, shoreline transition and sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The four-engine flying laboratory then headed southwest off the west coast of Alaska to again intercept the CALIPSO satellite track, and then coordinated flight with NASA B-200 King Air aircraft seeking Asian pollution on a boundary layer run along the Seward Peninsula area.
NASA's P-3 Orion was also active this week with data-collection flights to Barrow and over western Alaska. Mission managers report most of the one-of-a-kind instruments and related equipment installed in the aircraft have been working well, with few anomalies reported.
More than 125 scientists, flight crew and support personnel from several agencies and research institutions are participating in the ARCTAS mission. The second phase in the field campaign in July will focus on pollutants from boreal forest fires in northern Canada and their impact on Arctic climate.
The ARCTAS investigation is intended to improve understanding of how the composition of the Arctic atmosphere is influenced by long-range transport of pollution from lower latitudes and local emissions from boreal wildfires and their impact on Arctic quality and climate. Validation of the NASA satellites that continuously monitor the global atmosphere is also a major focus of this mission.