NASA is sending an aerial probe over the Pacific Ocean to study climate change.
The Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) is scheduled to begin flights in between January 16 and March 15. The modified drones will fly 65,000 feet above the ocean and study “unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers to how a warming climate is changing Earth.”
The unmanned drones will take flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California, and will be operated by Dryden Flight Research Center. Each flight will take 30-hours. The NASA team is also planning to deploy drones to Guam and Australia in 2014.
The instruments onboard each drone will include “remote sensors for measuring clouds, trace gases and temperatures above and below the aircraft, as well as instruments to measure water vapor, cloud properties, meteorological conditions, radiation fields and numerous trace gases around the aircraft.”
According to Eric Jensen, the principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center, “this is our first opportunity to sample the tropopause region during winter in the Northern Hemisphere when the region is coldest and extremely dry air enters the stratosphere.”
This project is extremely useful to understand how the world changes. Since even small changes in the stratospheric humidity can have a huge impact on the climate, it’s good to observe the process as it happens. This way we can track environmental changes and perhaps stop deterioration in certain areas.
You can view a special diagram on how the entire project will play out at this website here, as well as read more about the team behind it. While various satellites have performed experiments like this before, the ATTREX project will be a closer, more detailed examination of climate change than has been previously available to scientists. It will provide them with unprecedented prediction abilities on just how extensive climate change affects the Earth.
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