Thursday, 21 April 2011

Transit flight and Pico observatory fly-by

So the science team meeting was really good; as well as finding out a lot of important information about the BORTAS-B campaign this summer we saw some interesting data from the BORTAS-A campaign last summer. I will try and put together a series of posts over the next couple of weeks about what people had to say. The thing that I think was quite impressive was the number of people and organisations that were going to be involved this summer. So my first post concerns one data source which i think could prove quite valuable and which allows me to post some pretty pictures!

Obviously the aircraft has to get to Halifax somehow, and since the instruments are all onboard it seems sensible to make the most of the opportunity. This means that planning the transit flight is quite important as it gives us the opportunity to make some measurements further out in the Atlantic Ocean than will be possible from our base in Halifax. It has been decided that our route will probably look like this:

So we will fly from Cranfield, where the aircraft is based in the UK, to Porto in Portugal then to Pico in the Azores, St John's in Newfoundland and finally to Halifax in Nova Scotia. That might seem like a lot of stops but it gives us more flexibility in terms of doing maneuvers. This is important for the science as we will want to be able to look at changes in concentration at different heights and hopefully we will get lucky and intercept a forest fire plume. Even if we don't manage to see any forest fire emissions another brilliant opportunity is presented by the stop in Pico. There is an atmospheric observatory perched near the top of a dormant volcano on Pico Island which makes measurements of atmospheric composition. Details of the observatory are given here.

Pico Mountain showing the site of the Pico Mountain International Chemistry Observatory.

Measurements at this observatory no longer run continuously but they will be started in May 2011 and will run throughout the BORTAS-B campaign. The gas phase species that will be measured are carbon monoxide, ozone and non-methane hydrocarbons. The black carbon content and aerosol size will also be measured along with a number of meteorological parameters. Before landing at Pico Airport the aircraft will perform a circuit around the mountain and a height profile to see the changes in the composition of the air and physical parameters at different altitudes. This data can then be compared to the data from the observatory both providing context for the observatory measurements and allowing the two sets of instruments to be compared. 

 The instruments at the Pico Mountain International Chemistry Observatory.

Hopefully during the campaign the circulation of air will be such that air masses that we measure with the aircraft will travel on to be measured at the Pico observatory giving more information about how the plumes change with age. It is just a shame that I won't get the opportunity to go up and see the observatory (although I'm not sure how much I'd enjoy the steep trek up there) and the amazing views from the site.
The view from the observatory.

Thanks to Detlev Helmig from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado for pictures of the Pico Mountain Observatory.

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