Imperative II

Support observing needs of research programs at a level that serves NSF, university and NCAR program needs

Field program planning and implementation is a critical community service, and EOL’s efforts under our Imperative II are part of NCAR’s Strategic Imperative to provide observational facilities that meet the science community’s needs. EOL employs and trains project staff, assists principal investigators (PIs) with project planning and preparation, supports observing programs by operating facilities and instruments, and preserves quality of collected data for decades in support of research and field programs worldwide. EOL enables science for each campaign’s PIs through this support, and, when we are a science lead or participant, directly engages in that science. EOL provided field program planning and implementation for five NSF-funded, one NASA-funded and one NOAA-funded research campaigns, as well as three NSF-approved instrumentation tests. These were:

  • VERTEX(small)
  • ORCAS (large)
  • OLYMPEX (small, NASA-funded)
  • SHOUT (large, NOAA-funded)
  • MITTS (small, NOAA-funded)
  • ARISTO 2016 (instrumentation test)
  • SOCRATES-Test (instrumentation test)

In FY 2016, EOL’s work on these campaigns entailed direct support of more than 90 principal investigators from over 100 institutions. More than 180 students ­– undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral – were directly involved in these field campaigns as well.



The O2/N2 Ratio and CO2 Airborne Southern Ocean Project (ORCAS) campaign took place from 15 January – 29 February 2016, operating from Punta Arenas, Chile.  The goal of ORCAS was to advance the understanding of the physical and biological controls on air-sea exchange of O2 and CO2 in the Southern Ocean. ORCAS conducted intensive airborne ORCAS logosurveys of atmospheric O2, CO2, related gases, and ocean surface properties over diverse biogeochemical regions adjacent to the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula on 19 flights in January and February 2016. The NSF/NCAR GV aircraft flew with a suite of high-precision in situ and remote sensing instruments combined with whole-air samplers. The project also included hyperspectral remote sensing of the ocean surface, characterization of the emissions of biogenic reactive gases over the Southern Ocean, and measurements of cloud and aerosol properties. ORCAS observations were guided by and will be used to test ocean biogeochemistry models to improve our understanding of key processes and feedbacks in an undersampled yet climatically important part of the world.

Preliminary results show that, among several other findings, ORCAS was successful in characterizing the large-scale abundance of O2 and CO2 over the Southern Ocean and its evolution over six weeks, which will provide precise estimates of O2 and CO2 exchange over much of the Southern Ocean in the preceding months and during the campaign.  


Airborne Research Instrumentation Testing Opportunity (ARISTO) 2016

ARISTO logoARISTO 2016 was conducted in August 2016, and its payload included instruments from JPL, IMK, Colorado State Univ., Univ. of Washington, Univ. of Colorado, Univ. of Wyoming, and NCAR.  The instrument installations required the fabrication of infrastructure for the aircraft, and DFS and RAF worked together to ensure the successful integration of the scientific payload.

A total of 14 instruments flew during ARISTO 2016 and six flights were carried out, providing crucial engineering and science data for the participants. The fourth flight was particularly productive with all the instruments on the payload working well, and the C-130 flight crew was able to locate and penetrate local biomass burning smoke plumes. As a result, most of the air atmospheric chemistry objectives were accomplished. The last flight targeted the West Coast to support maritime cloud sampling and dropsonde deployment.


HCR Test 2016

The HCR Test 2016 program ran from September 19 to October 10, 2016, operating from RAF.  Four flights were executed to test and evaluate several aspects of HCR operation, including a new INS that would hopefully improve angle accuracy as compared to the current unit.  The flights were successful in that all potential issues related to the aircraft and GPS feed were illuminated, but unforeseen problems were discovered with the angle information from the new INS unit. EOL staff began work with the vendor on firmware updates in hopes of correcting the isolated INS dynamics issues. Further testing and correction will continue in FY 2017.



The Vertical Enhanced Mixing research project was led by Cristina Archer at the University of Delaware to study the effect of the wake of a wind turbine on the atmosphere-surface exchange of momentum, sensible heat, and water vapor.  Fifteen ISFS stations collected data from 1 September through 31 October 2016 in a challenging wetlands environment. EOL staff showed their ingenuity and talent in their unique capability to deploy in just about any environment - the project is situated in a marsh where boats are required for all project operations. The project setup was so reliable that all of the sites survived the remnants of Hurricane Hermine, and the scientific data obtained will be analyzed by the PI in FY 2017.

VERTEX instrumentation after hurricane Hermine

VERTEX instrumentation after Hurricane Hermine.



EOL supported the third field campaign of the Sensing Hazards with Operational Unmanned Technology (SHOUT) NOAA project with the automated AVAPS system on the NASA/NOAA Global Hawk, which was based at NASA Wallops flight facility in Virginia and the NASA Armstrong Research Center in California.  The field campaign took place for ten weeks from 1 August to 10 October 2016.

Flights took place into Hurricane Gaston, Hurricane Hermine, Tropical Storm Karl, and Hurricane Mathew. Flight RF03 released 90 dropsondes, which is a new record for the most SHOUT logosondes released during a single flight of any dropsonde system.  In all, 647 sondes were deployed in 213 flight hours during the SHOUT campaign.  The SHOUT team was on call for 10 consecutive weeks, including an extension during Hurricane Matthew, without missing a scheduled flight. The SHOUT Hurricane Rapid Reponse (HRR) Management Team wrote an encouraging letter touting the outstanding interagency work on the project.  “This effort results in the most comprehensive set of observations to date from an unmanned aircraft in a tropical storm environment,” said Project Manager Philip Kenul.

EOL also supported the NOAA Global Hawk’s participation in the ENSO Rapid Response Mission, which is part of SHOUT, by installing and supporting the dropsonde system on the GH for flights during spring 2016. The dropsonde system was an integral part of this three-week mission, which was based out of Edwards AFB at NASA Armstrong in California.



The Monitoring the Intensification and Track of Tropical Storms (MITTS) project’s purpose was to support NOAA operational hurricane tracking and observations while their G-IV was undergoing repairs. The NSF/NCAR GV was outfitted with AVAPS to take observations of developing and mature tropical systems in the tropics when needed. Collected data supported operational forecasters and models to help provide better forecasts of tropical storm strength and track.

On 23 August 2016, RAF received a request to deploy the GV, and a group leads decided such a deployment was feasible. Maintenance on the GV was finished 25 August, and AVAPS was installed onto the plane.  Tampa, FL was the initial target, but on 29 August, the MITTS team was informed they were going to Hawaii.  Between 23 August and 30 August, important maintenance items were finished; AVAPS, display racks, and seats were installed; the aircraft was certified for flight; aircraft and ground products were configured; and logistics were planned without knowing exactly where the GV would be sent.  On 30 August, the GV began testing dropsondes off the coast of California in preparation for a Pacific deployment.  On Wednesday, 31 August, the GV flew around Hurricane Lester, deploying 22 dropsondes and recovering to Honolulu. The GV flight track around Lester is shown below.GV flight track around Hurricane Lester during MITTS

The GV returned from Hawaii the evening of September 3rd after its last surveillance flight around Hurricane Lester.  In the three days that the GV flew around Lester, 87 total sondes were dropped, sending valuable information to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Environmental Modeling Center (NCEP/EMC) in real time for modeling the track of the storm.

NOAA was very impressed with EOL's efficiency, professionalism, and commitment to safety.  The work on MITTS was noticed at high levels within NOAA and NSF and will only serve to boost EOL's reputation.  NOAA Rear Admiral Anita Lopez wrote a letter praising “the outstanding support provided by the NSF/NCAR Gulfstream V.”  Lopez said that the data collected by the GV improved forecasts by 15% for the storms that impacted Hawaii.

See the MITTS project page for more information on MITTS and 9NewsNSF’s media site, and the Daily Camera for media coverage on the project.


Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX)

The NASA Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) occurred in November - December 2016.  One of the NSF science goals of the project is to test hypotheses regarding orographic precipitation in conjunction with frontal passages over mountain ranges. Those on the project plan to release AVAPS Dropsondes over the Pacific Ocean.

This joint project between NASA and the University of Washington's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, OLYMPEX wrapped up with a successful Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite underpass over post-frontal oceanic precipitation.  ISF supported OLYMPEX with dropsondes on the NASA DC-8, which carried out 19 science flights for a total of 93.3 flight hours. The DC-8 was used to help assess the accuracy of a new generation of weather satellites and to precisely calculate how much water is in a storm in the form of rain, snow, or ice.  In addition to the DC-8, the project involved two other aircraft and a variety of ground-based instruments including the CSWR DOWs.