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.


  1. Looks like a pretty handy tool for ensuring you're in the right place at the right time, which I can imagine is vital to your research. I assume your filght planning is pretty last minute being dependent on prevailing weather conditions which could change the area in which you can fly pretty quickly.

  2. Yes every morning when the instrument scientists were warming up their instruments there was a weather briefing/discussion between collaborators at Environment Canada, our UK met office representative, the pilots and the mission scientist in charge of the flight. After that meeting the flight plan could change significantly. We have a lot of flexibility as well so we could change our plans inflight as the team on the ground sent us new weather plots; in one case this required a diversion to a different airport and an overnight stay elsewhere.