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Mary E. Whelan, Leander D. L. Anderegg, Grayson Badgley, J. Elliott Campbell, Roisin Commane, Christian Frankenberg, Timothy W. Hilton, Le Kuai, Nicholas Parazoo, Yoichi Shiga, Yuting Wang, and John Worden

Abstract

Where does the carbon released by burning fossil fuels go? Currently, ocean and land systems remove about half of the CO2 emitted by human activities; the remainder stays in the atmosphere. These removal processes are sensitive to feedbacks in the energy, carbon, and water cycles that will change in the future. Observing how much carbon is taken up on land through photosynthesis is complicated because carbon is simultaneously respired by plants, animals, and microbes. Global observations from satellites and air samples suggest that natural ecosystems take up about as much CO2 as they emit. To match the data, our land models generate imaginary Earths where carbon uptake and respiration are roughly balanced, but the absolute quantities of carbon being exchanged vary widely. Getting the magnitude of the flux is essential to make sure our models are capturing the right pattern for the right reasons. Combining two cutting-edge tools, carbonyl sulfide (OCS) and solar-induced fluorescence (SIF), will help develop an independent answer of how much carbon is being taken up by global ecosystems. Photosynthesis requires CO2, light, and water. OCS provides a spatially and temporally integrated picture of the “front door” of photosynthesis, proportional to CO2 uptake and water loss through plant stomata. SIF provides a high-resolution snapshot of the “side door,” scaling with the light captured by leaves. These two independent pieces of information help us understand plant water and carbon exchange. A coordinated effort to generate SIF and OCS data through satellite, airborne, and ground observations will improve our process-based models to predict how these cycles will change in the future.

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Chelsea R. Thompson, Steven C. Wofsy, Michael J. Prather, Paul A. Newman, Thomas F. Hanisco, Thomas B. Ryerson, David W. Fahey, Eric C. Apel, Charles A. Brock, William H. Brune, Karl Froyd, Joseph M. Katich, Julie M. Nicely, Jeff Peischl, Eric Ray, Patrick R. Veres, Siyuan Wang, Hannah M. Allen, Elizabeth Asher, Huisheng Bian, Donald Blake, Ilann Bourgeois, John Budney, T. Paul Bui, Amy Butler, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Cecilia Chang, Mian Chin, RóISíN Commane, Gus Correa, John D. Crounse, Bruce Daube, Jack E. Dibb, Joshua P. Digangi, Glenn S. Diskin, Maximilian Dollner, James W. Elkins, Arlene M. Fiore, Clare M. Flynn, Hao Guo, Samuel R. Hall, Reem A. Hannun, Alan Hills, Eric J. Hintsa, Alma Hodzic, Rebecca S. Hornbrook, L. Greg Huey, Jose L. Jimenez, Ralph F. Keeling, Michelle J. Kim, Agnieszka Kupc, Forrest Lacey, Leslie R. Lait, Jean-Francois Lamarque, Junhua Liu, Kathryn Mckain, Simone Meinardi, David O. Miller, Stephen A. Montzka, Fred L. Moore, Eric J. Morgan, Daniel M. Murphy, Lee T. Murray, Benjamin A. Nault, J. Andrew Neuman, Louis Nguyen, Yenny Gonzalez, Andrew Rollins, Karen Rosenlof, Maryann Sargent, Gregory Schill, Joshua P. Schwarz, Jason M. St. Clair, Stephen D. Steenrod, Britton B. Stephens, Susan E. Strahan, Sarah A. Strode, Colm Sweeney, Alexander B. Thames, Kirk Ullmann, Nicholas Wagner, Rodney Weber, Bernadett Weinzierl, Paul O. Wennberg, Christina J. Williamson, Glenn M. Wolfe, and Linghan Zeng

Abstract

This article provides an overview of the NASA Atmospheric Tomography (ATom) mission and a summary of selected scientific findings to date. ATom was an airborne measurements and modeling campaign aimed at characterizing the composition and chemistry of the troposphere over the most remote regions of the Pacific, Southern, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans, and examining the impact of anthropogenic and natural emissions on a global scale. These remote regions dominate global chemical reactivity and are exceptionally important for global air quality and climate. ATom data provide the in situ measurements needed to understand the range of chemical species and their reactions, and to test satellite remote sensing observations and global models over large regions of the remote atmosphere. Lack of data in these regions, particularly over the oceans, has limited our understanding of how atmospheric composition is changing in response to shifting anthropogenic emissions and physical climate change. ATom was designed as a global-scale tomographic sampling mission with extensive geographic and seasonal coverage, tropospheric vertical profiling, and detailed speciation of reactive compounds and pollution tracers. ATom flew the NASA DC-8 research aircraft over four seasons to collect a comprehensive suite of measurements of gases, aerosols, and radical species from the remote troposphere and lower stratosphere on four global circuits from 2016 to 2018. Flights maintained near-continuous vertical profiling of 0.15 – 13 km altitudes on long meridional transects of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins. Analysis and modeling of ATom data have led to the significant early findings highlighted here.

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