Hawaii-bound in search of global climate data

Nov 19, 2013 by Brian Grabowski
Aboard the cargo ship Horizon Spirit, scientists assembled radar and other instruments to record climate data as the ship traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Click the link to see more images from the mission. Credit: Jim Mather, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

While the idea of a cruise to Hawaii may sound like paradise, making that same journey 25 times back and forth in a year might start to lose its appeal.

But for a climate data-gathering machine called AMF2, perched aboard the ship, every trip is a chance to gather more data that is critical to understanding the Pacific Ocean's role in the .

The machine is the Department of Energy's second Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) mobile facility, operated and managed by Argonne scientists. It carries a suite of instruments to measure properties of clouds, the ocean, precipitation, aerosols, and radiation. Over the summer of 2013, the AMF2 traveled back and forth between Hawaii and Los Angeles, taking data aboard the Horizon Spirit in the first official ARM marine deployment of its kind.

The AMF2's mission is to capture data so that scientists can get a better picture of the way that clouds, aerosols—particles in the air, like dust or smog—and Earth's energy and water balance interact over the Pacific. All of these variables are important in piecing together how the Earth's climate works as a whole.

AMF2 is particularly well-adapted to gather data in regions of the world that don't have much data yet, or are difficult to get to—like the open ocean.

Led by AMF2 operations manager Nicki Hickmon, the AMF2 team spent months adapting the instruments—which had been last deployed on land in the Maldives—to life aboard a ship. For example, they have to stay stable despite the rolling of the ship's deck as it plies the waves. (Feeling seasick yet?) The researchers installed special tables to correct for the motion.

Collecting data on atmospheric conditions over an entire year, including the transitions among cloud types along this particular route, will provide an enormous amount of new data to help refine and validate models of Earth's climate.

The mission is called MAGIC, which stands for the Marine ARM GPCI Investigation of Clouds; GPCI is a project comparing results from the major climate models. MAGIC is a collaborative effort involving Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratory, as well as the Department of Energy, ARM, and others. The data will be made available to the scientific community through the ARM data archive located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Explore further: Glaciers in the grand canyon of Mars?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Yearlong MAGIC climate study launches

Oct 01, 2012

(Phys.org)—A Horizon Lines container ship outfitted with meteorological and atmospheric instruments installed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven ...

Irrigation's impact on clouds and climate

Aug 05, 2013

With the simple act of watering a plant, humans alter the balance of moisture in soil and the climate. Atmospheric scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory included irrigation in a climate model ...

The world's biggest radar laboratory

Dec 08, 2011

In the past year, the Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility deployed 18 new scanning radars at its research sites in Oklahoma, Alaska, and the tropical western Pacific. These ...

Recommended for you

NASA's HS3 looks Hurricane Edouard in the eye

12 hours ago

NASA and NOAA scientists participating in NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel (HS3) mission used their expert skills, combined with a bit of serendipity on Sept. 17, 2014, to guide the remotely piloted ...

Tropical Storm Rachel dwarfed by developing system 90E

17 hours ago

Tropical Storm Rachel is spinning down west of Mexico's Baja California, and another tropical low pressure area developing off the coast of southwestern Mexico dwarfs the tropical storm. NOAA's GOES-West ...

NASA ocean data shows 'climate dance' of plankton

20 hours ago

The greens and blues of the ocean color from NASA satellite data have provided new insights into how climate and ecosystem processes affect the growth cycles of phytoplankton—microscopic aquatic plants ...

Glaciers in the grand canyon of Mars?

21 hours ago

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. Using satellite images, ...

NASA support key to glacier mapping efforts

21 hours ago

Thanks in part to support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, scientists have produced the first-ever detailed maps of bedrock beneath glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. This new data will help ...

User comments : 0