Wednesday, 30 June 2010

CO Forecasting for Flight Planning

Post written by Keith Tereszchuk

Since there will be a limited amount of scheduled flight time available during the month long campaign in Halifax next summer it is important that we take advantage of the time as best we can.  So flight planning will be an essential part of our flight preparation.  The FAAM aircraft has an operational range of 500 nautical miles and maximum flying time of approximately 5 hours, so it will be crucial to be able to locate biomass burning plumes over Maritime Canada and the North Atlantic before leaving the ground to ensure that we will successfully make useful measurements during each and every flight.  Therefore, we must be able to accurately forecast the location of biomass burning plumes in the troposphere.

Example plot of CO data from IASI. The circle represents the area within which the aircraft can operate.
To do this, we will be using data provided by IASI, the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer. It is a key instrument on the METOP series of European meteorological polar-orbit satellites.  It is developed by CNES (Centre national d’√©tudes spatiales, French space agency) in co-operation with EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). This instrument scans the entire globe up to 3 times a day and retrieves the concentrations of numerous molecular species in the free atmosphere including carbon monoxide (CO), a well-known biomass burning marker species.  Cathy Clerbaux from LATMOS-ULB (French national atmospheric science research centre at the Universit√© Libre de Bruxelles) has kindly offered to provide us near-real time CO data from IASI (updated every 3 hours) for our forecasting purposes during the BORTAS campaign. We will be producing forecasts this summer and looking at ground based and satellite data to assess how well we are doing and any changes that need making before the forecasts are used for flight planning next summer.

Friday, 11 June 2010

New Instrument Cleared to Fly

There is a group in Italy led by Piero Di Carlo and based in the physics department at the University of L’Aquila that make measurements of reactive nitrogen species in the atmosphere using laser induced fluorescence (LIF). They have agreed to be part of the BORTAS project and have their instrument installed on the UK BAe 146 Atmospheric Research Aircraft. The operation of this instrument and analysis of the data it produces are the parts of the project I was employed to carry out so developments on this new instrument (well new to me anyway) are quite exciting! It was intended that we would use this nitrogen dioxide (NO2) LIF instrument to measure NO2 and through thermal decomposition also the sum of alkyl nitrates and the sum of peroxyacyl nitrates (PANs) during the BORTAS aircraft campaign this summer. Because this instrument has not been used on the research aircraft before it needs to go through testing and certification to allow it to fly. The schedule for this from our point of view is not so urgent any more but since the instrument is intended to fly on another campaign that is now taking place in the UK this summer this process is still taking place. So earlier this week we had brilliant news that on 9th June the instrument passed the BAe inspection and so will be installed on the aircraft, hopefully, next week.

Later this month I should be able to travel down to the airport at Cranfield to see the instrument on the aircraft and help with some operational testing. Then test flights start early July… fingers crossed the instrument is a good flier and there are no major hiccups. I’ll let you know how it all goes.