Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics (CAST)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences

Abstract

The unique research capability of the Global Hawk, with ultra-long flights possible in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, provides a major new opportunity to advance atmospheric science. In response to the NERC/STFC/NASA collaborative initiative, we have assembled an experienced UK team that proposes to execute a research programme covering fundamental science and technology development, which, by working with the Global Hawk, will radically enhance our future research capabilities.

The Tropical Tropopause Layer (TTL) is a crucial region for chemistry/climate interactions. Building on work we have already done in this area , we will collaborate with NASA's ATTREX programme to study the TTL over the Pacific Ocean and South East Asia, with new measurements and analysis. We will address fundamental questions related to atmospheric composition, radiation and transport. The TTL controls the transport of water vapour, the crucial radiative gas, into the stratosphere; we will advance understanding of the role of sub-visible cirrus in water vapour processes. The TTL is also the main route by which very short-lived halogen species, which represent a large uncertainty in future stratospheric ozone evolution, enter the stratosphere. We will improve knowledge of the budgets of these gases and of their chemical transformation and transport through the TTL, including the role of convective transport into the TTL and the subsequent routes for transport from the TTL to the lower stratosphere. Improving representation of these processes in global chemistry/climate models is a key aim.

In order to study these processes, The FAAM BAe-146 will be deployed in Guam in Jan/Feb 2014. It will fly coordinated flights with the Global Hawk which will make measurements in the same period in the TTL over the West Pacific. Detailed involvement in all phases of the collaborative missions with ATTREX will enhance the UK potential for future research using the Global Hawk, including advanced capability in mission planning and methodologies for complex, real-time data analysis. The aircraft measurements will be interpreted in conjunction with ground-based and balloon-based measurements of very short-lived halogen species and ozone, using a complementary group of regional high resolution models, global composition models and a global cirrus model.

We will develop and test two new instruments and new software for the payload/mission-scientist interface, which are ideally suited for the capabilities of the Global Hawk. One new instrument will allow quantification in the TTL of the important physical properties of sub- and super-micron sized particles, allowing new information about clouds and radiation. We will develop a new short-wave IR spectrometer to measure greenhouse (CO2, CH4, and H2O) and other (CO) gases in the lower atmosphere by remote sensing, taking advantage of the very long flights in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. Both instruments will be flight-tested in CAST.

As well as addressing the specifics of this call, CAST addresses the central vision of the Technology theme: "to engage scientists, technologists, computer specialists and engineers working both within the NERC community and outside it, identifying that in many cases it will only be through developing new partnerships that the most challenging innovations in technology can be enabled" (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/themes/tap/documents/tap-technologies-2009.pdf). CAST brings new technology expertise in machine learning into the NERC community and strengthens the links between NERC scientists and the technology groups at Hertfordshire and the Astronomy Technology Centre.

Planned Impact

Policy makers, atmospheric scientists and the general public makers will be among the long term beneficiaries of this research. The work relates to two major policy questions; the control of halogenated substances, regulated under the Montreal Protocol, and climate change, the topic of the Kyoto Protocol. Our science will inform the international assessment processes and will be of direct interest to government departments, chiefly DECC and DEFRA.

The general public has a keen interest in global change, in general, and ozone depletion, in particular. It remains extremely important to engage with the public, to provide latest scientific evidence related to these issues, to counter the increasing levels of misinformation being propagated. We will engage with these various groups in a number if ways: through formal and informal meetings, through the peer-reviewed literature and through our web pages. Nearly all PIs give popular lectures on environmental change issues at e.g. schools and will continue to do so. We also often speak to the media.

There is a large number of people in science, the private sector and government who are interested in understanding the capabilities that can be developed for atmospheric observation from UAVs as well as what the potential uses are. CAST will inform and engage with this community in order to share the experience from CAST and to learn from the experience of others. This has the potential to develop a real UK presence in the field of UAV use and research.

CAST will provide career development for PhD students and PDRAs through involving them in the planning and implementation of field campaigns and presentations of results at project meetings, international conferences and in the peer-reviewed literature. In addition all people involved in CAST will learn about the planning and uses for UAVs.

Publications


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MacKenzie, A. R. (2014) Pollution: causes, effects and control
 
Description Scientific discovery is still in progress, but we can say already that we have achieved significant technical advances in the use of very small unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to deliver significant atmospheric sampling payloads to the free troposphere.
Exploitation Route We expect that others will learn from us what can, and cannot, be achieved with very small UAS, increasing their use as complement to manned aircraft.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment
 
Description This award has greatly improved our interaction with the civilian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, or 'drones') community. We have demonstrated the potential for very small UAVs to undertake missions in the remote free troposphere. Doctoral research joint with Lancaster University through a tied studentship has provided highly innovative data visualisation techniques that offer completely new ways to see patterns in environmental data in real time.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment
Impact Types Economic
 
Description Advanced Training Short Course
Amount £44,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N019032/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description Advanced Training Short Course
Amount £73,157 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P020623/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2019
 
Description Advanced Training Short Course
Amount £23,600 (GBP)
Funding ID Advanced Training Short Course 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2015 
End 03/2016
 
Description Advanced Training Short Course
Amount £22,219 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/M006573/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 06/2014 
End 03/2015
 
Description Postgraduate and Professional Skills Development Awards
Amount £43,772 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Dec 2013: Sustainable Aviation Research Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Marcus Koehler, CAST PDRA, attended on 6 Dec 2013: Sustainable Aviation Research Symposium at British Airways HQ, Waterside, Middlesex, to discuss aviation impacts on the chemistry and microphysics of the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Op-ed (climate exaggeration) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article for online magazine _The Conversation_, on whether climate science is widely exaggerated.


Over 140 comments generated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://theconversation.com/climate-change-its-only-human-to-exaggerate-but-science-itself-does-not-3...
 
Description Op-ed (drones) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Article for the online magazine _The Conversation on the scientific use of unmanned aerial vehicles: "Of all the existential anxieties addressed by drones, war is only the most obvious".

3 comments generated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://theconversation.com/not-just-weapons-of-war-drones-hold-much-potential-for-civilians-18933
 
Description Science Week Open Day, University of Cambridge 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Marcus Koehler, CAST PDRA, took part in Science Week Open Day, University of Cambridge (Public engagement, Poster presented)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014