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Kenneth J. Davis, Edward V. Browell, Sha Feng, Thomas Lauvaux, Michael D. Obland, Sandip Pal, Bianca C. Baier, David F. Baker, Ian T. Baker, Zachary R. Barkley, Kevin W. Bowman, Yu Yan Cui, A. Scott Denning, Joshua P. DiGangi, Jeremy T. Dobler, Alan Fried, Tobias Gerken, Klaus Keller, Bing Lin, Amin R. Nehrir, Caroline P. Normile, Christopher W. O’Dell, Lesley E. Ott, Anke Roiger, Andrew E. Schuh, Colm Sweeney, Yaxing Wei, Brad Weir, Ming Xue, and Christopher A. Williams

Abstract

The Atmospheric Carbon and Transport (ACT) – America NASA Earth Venture Suborbital Mission set out to improve regional atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) inversions by exploring the intersection of the strong GHG fluxes and vigorous atmospheric transport that occurs within the midlatitudes. Two research aircraft instrumented with remote and in situ sensors to measure GHG mole fractions, associated trace gases, and atmospheric state variables collected 1140.7 flight hours of research data, distributed across 305 individual aircraft sorties, coordinated within 121 research flight days, and spanning five, six-week seasonal flight campaigns in the central and eastern United States. Flights sampled 31 synoptic sequences, including fair weather and frontal conditions, at altitudes ranging from the atmospheric boundary layer to the upper free troposphere. The observations were complemented with global and regional GHG flux and transport model ensembles. We found that midlatitude weather systems contain large spatial gradients in GHG mole fractions, in patterns that were consistent as a function of season and altitude. We attribute these patterns to a combination of regional terrestrial fluxes and inflow from the continental boundaries. These observations, when segregated according to altitude and air mass, provide a variety of quantitative insights into the realism of regional CO2 and CH4 fluxes and atmospheric GHG transport realizations. The ACT-America data set and ensemble modeling methods provide benchmarks for the development of atmospheric inversion systems. As global and regional atmospheric inversions incorporate ACT-America’s findings and methods, we anticipate these systems will produce increasingly accurate and precise sub-continental GHG flux estimates.

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