act America is a extended sustained
research effort using aircraft whose objective is to improve our ability to
determine the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases mainly carbon dioxide
and methane into the Earth’s atmosphere and out of the Earth’s atmosphere we’re
trying to better understand the greenhouse gas budget of the Earth’s
atmosphere using these aircraft measurements we need this information
because at present we are changing the composition of the atmosphere and while
we understand some of the reasons that the composition of the atmosphere is
changing such as we know that burning fossil fuels is adding carbon dioxide
and warming the planet we don’t fully understand the trends in carbon dioxide
and methane and the total amount of change we are interested in this study
for diverse reasons most of the important reason is that that how the
weather system you know actually affects that the greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere it has been completely unknown we can just go to the storms and
make measurements around the storms and different areas of the frontal systems
for instance thanks to these different campaigns over different seasons in the
last three years we have been able to look at both the local variations of
greenhouse gases over North America but also about large-scale flow of air and
this was really fantastic to be able to observe these large weather systems for
example of front crossing the Midwest of the United States we can actually sample
air that comes directly from Alaska Canada and other places it was really
interesting to discover that we have actually a lot of uncertainties coming
from places where we do not have enough measurements when the air comes from the
high latitudes there are very few sites it’s difficult to deploy instruments and for
the first time we were able to measure these so you cross the front and you go
from an air mass that comes from the Gulf of Mexico and in the next five
minutes you are actually measuring air from Alaska yeah you know Ken, me or Brian would be
there oh yeah we’ll figure we’ll figure it out to make sure somebody. The
single biggest challenge I think I’ve personally faced as project manager is
just the logistics the the huge amount of inertia and logistics involved in
getting two aircraft into the field with all the support personnel and the
scientists and even having coordination with the folks back at their home
institutions who are helping doing the forecasting and the modeling getting all
of that together and having it all work at the same time and coming together to
give us a great data set I think it’s a challenge every time we do it I think
actually some of the favorite moments for me have been the ones born out of
potential disaster and chaos right when we have failed parts on the aircraft or
instruments just seeing the team come together pull together and do whatever
it takes to get us back in the air safely taking data it’s just neat to see
from the top down everybody on the team pulling together because everyone knows
the data are important and we need to get up there and take it and do a good
job with our taxpayer dollars we learned a great deal of frontal system how does
the frontal system like Midlantic and storms brings the air from the North
Pole to the mid-latitude and also brings to the south part of the globe and this
entire global mixing process we are learning from the academic observations
we are also learning how much you know co2 is absorbed on the way as the storm
moves act America is really unique because we design our flight plans to
sample so to methane in stormy weather pattern and fair weather to help help us
to understand co2 or methane corresponding to different conditions it
can help us to understand the vertical gradient and a horizontal gradient of
the co2 and eventually help us to have a better
understanding of the numerical model and then and then help us to quantify it and
reduce the model uncertainties there’s been data taken from towers and and
flights here and there but act America is a focused data set that I would hope
people would look back and say this was a really important turning point in our
understanding of greenhouse gases and their transport and the uncertainties in
that in that process across the United States at present we tend to think oh
that weather stuff it causes noise just average it out let’s not worry about
that stuff that’s not the signal we want but it actually bares information that
we can use I hope this mission will make weather scale greenhouse gas data signal
no longer noise you