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EES-2 Climate Team:  Going Global with Climate Research

Larry A. Jones
October 2005

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation (ARM) Program is making global climate research a reality for scientists worldwide with a new and flexible instrument platform for conducting atmospheric experiments lasting from 6 to 18 months in any environment, from the cold of the Arctic to the heat of the tropics.  The new ARM Mobile Facility (AMF) is designed to explore science questions beyond those addressed by ARM’s permanent sites at the North Slope of Alaska, Tropical Western Pacific (TWP), and Southern Great Plains locales.  With instrumentation and data systems similar to the permanent sites, the AMF is deployed to locations around the world to collect essential information about the cloudy and clear atmospheres in climatically important regions that are currently under sampled.

Since March 12, 2005, the AMF has been operating at Point Reyes, CA as part of Marine Stratus, Radiation, Aerosol, and Drizzle (MASRAD) field campaign in collaboration with the U.S. Office of Naval Research and DOE’s Aerosol Science Program.  The objective of the intensive operation period is to make observations of cloud-aerosol interactions and to improve understanding of cloud organization often associated with patches of drizzle.  To help fill in information gaps in the existing limited surveys of marine stratus microphysical structure, the AMF contributes significantly to the scientific objectives of this project by providing state-of-the-art active and passive remote sensors to measure the detailed microphysical structure of drizzle patches and the associated clouds as they move onshore.  Marine stratus clouds are known to be susceptible to the byproducts of fossil fuel consumption, a multi-agency climate change priority.

A suite of radiometers take measurements of downwelling solar, infrared, and ultraviolet irradiances.

As marine stratus clouds move inland, this microwave radiometer, atop one of the AMF instrument shelters, measures the microwave emissions of the vapor and liquid water molecules in the atmosphere at specific frequencies.

The TWP/AMF Management Office at Los Alamos National Laboratory (EES-2) is responsible for executing each deployment of the AMF and maintaining full operation of the facility throughout the 6 to 18-month duration.  The engineering, logistics, and daily maintenance of the AMF is carried out by an experienced team of LANL scientists, engineers, technicians and business affiliates who have gained their expertise by operating the ARM research facilities in Manus, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Nauru, and Darwin, Australia.  While simultaneously maintaining the TWP sites and preparing to conclude operations at Point Reyes, the TWP/AMF Management Office is already looking ahead to 2006 with plans for the AMF’s next deployment in Niamey, Niger, Africa.

Niamey is the next destination of the AMF, where it will join the Radiative Divergence Using AMF, GERB and AMMA Stations (RADAGAST) field campaign.  As part of this intensive operation period, the AMF will be deployed beneath the Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument on the Meteosat satellite.  The deployment will be timed to coincide with the field phases of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) experiment, in which extensive airborne and surface measurements will be made in the region of the deployment site.  This will enable the first direct measurements of the divergence of solar and thermal radiation across the atmosphere in this region, combined with measurements of the corresponding atmospheric structure, using the temporal sampling necessary to address fundamental questions related to radiative forcing of climate.

In 2006 the AMF will be deployed to this site at Niamey, the capital of Niger, in Africa.

Meteorological staff at the Niamey airport launch a weather balloon.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is one of several laboratory partners contributing to the overall mission of the ARM Program.  The EES-2 team at LANL was selected to manage the mobile facility because of their level of expertise and success at operating the TWP sites over the past 10 years.  For more information about the AMF and to find out about future deployments, visit the ARM web site at www.arm.gov.

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