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July 19, 2002

Release: 02-43

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NASA's high-altitude ER-2 airplane is participating in a study of cirrus clouds called the Cirrus Regional Study of Tropical Anvils and Cirrus Layers - Florida Area Cirrus Experiment (CRYSTAL-FACE).

During July some 450 scientists are in Southern Florida to study high tropical clouds composed of tiny ice crystals. Cirrus clouds float at altitudes from 20,000 to 60,000 feet. An anvil is an extensive ice cloud that forms at the top of deep thunderstorm clouds. Scientists hope to determine how ice clouds form, how they limit the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the Earth, and how they trap heat rising from the surface and lower atmosphere.

The ER-2, from Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., is one of six aircraft involved in the study based at Key West Naval Air Facility, Fla. The ER-2 will conduct remote sensing studies of cirrus clouds and environmental conditions.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Airborne Simulator is one of a suite of 11 instruments carried by the ER-2. Measurements taken by this instrument will be compared to those taken by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. A major scientific goal is to use cloud measurements from aircraft to calibrate remote cloud measurements from satellites so characteristics of clouds can be observed more accurately from the higher altitudes of orbiting spacecraft. Another instrument, the Meteorological Measurement System, will measure temperature, pressure and winds. Reflection of sunlight by clouds will be measured by the Solar Spectral Flux radiometer.

Participants include researchers from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo., and various universities and companies are also participating.


Note to Editors: hotos of the ER-2 are available on the Dryden Web site: /centers/dfrc/gallery/photo/index.html

Project information is available at:

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