Toward Rapid Balloon Experiments for Sudden Aerosol Injection in the Stratosphere (REAS) by Volcanic Eruptions and Wildfires

N. Dumelié GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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J.-P. Vernier National Institute of Aerospace, and NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia;

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G. Berthet LPC2E, UMR CNRS 7328, CNRS, Université d’Orléans, Orléans, France;

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H. Vernier LPC2E, UMR CNRS 7328, CNRS, Université d’Orléans, Orléans, France;

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J.-B. Renard LPC2E, UMR CNRS 7328, CNRS, Université d’Orléans, Orléans, France;

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N. Rastogi Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India;

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F. Wienhold Institut für Atmosphäre und Klima, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland;

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D. Combaz GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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M. Angot GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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J. Burgalat GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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F. Parent GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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N. Chauvin GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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G. Albora GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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P. Dagaut ICARE, UPR3021, CNRS, Orléans, France;

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R. Benoit ICARE, UPR3021, CNRS, Orléans, France;

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M. Kovilakam Analytical Mechanics Associates, Hampton, Virginia;

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C. Crevoisier Laboratoire de Métrologie Dynamique (LMD/IPSL), CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, Université Paris-Saclay, Palaiseau, France

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L. Joly GSMA, UMR CNRS 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France;

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Abstract

Stratospheric aerosols are greatly influenced by medium-to-large volcanic eruptions. Over the last few years, extreme wildfires have been identified as new sources of stratospheric particles, in the form of carbonaceous aerosols injected by pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) events in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, associated with significant impacts on climate and ozone chemistry. To assess the impact of wildfires and volcanic eruptions on stratospheric aerosol loadings in the Northern Hemisphere, the Rapid Balloon Experiments for Sudden Aerosol Injection in the Stratosphere (REAS) project has been initiated. REAS is an international initiative that aims to respond to sudden events impacting stratospheric aerosol composition. Seventeen balloons were launched from Reims, eastern France, between November 2021 and January 2022 to quantify the atmospheric content for both aerosols and trace/greenhouse gases from the ground up to stratospheric levels. The main measurements concerned trace gases (CO/CO2 as tracers of smoke) and aerosol together with ozone using instruments such as a gas collector, optical particle counters, backscatter sondes, an aerosol sampler, an aerosol impactor, and ozonesondes. The Groupe de Spectrométrie Moléculaire et Atmosphérique (GSMA) launch facility provided unique possibilities of combining multiple measurements in one flight thanks to medium flights (corresponding to a 6 kg payload). While no major event impacted the stratosphere during the campaign, we particularly discuss the influence of the aged volcanic plume from La Soufrière volcano (Saint Vincent island) and smoke particles from series of pyroCb events that took place in North America. The burden as well as the optical and microphysical properties of the observed aerosols are quantified from these in situ observations in association with various satellite data.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Nicolas Dumelié, nicolas.dumelie@univ-reims.fr

Abstract

Stratospheric aerosols are greatly influenced by medium-to-large volcanic eruptions. Over the last few years, extreme wildfires have been identified as new sources of stratospheric particles, in the form of carbonaceous aerosols injected by pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) events in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, associated with significant impacts on climate and ozone chemistry. To assess the impact of wildfires and volcanic eruptions on stratospheric aerosol loadings in the Northern Hemisphere, the Rapid Balloon Experiments for Sudden Aerosol Injection in the Stratosphere (REAS) project has been initiated. REAS is an international initiative that aims to respond to sudden events impacting stratospheric aerosol composition. Seventeen balloons were launched from Reims, eastern France, between November 2021 and January 2022 to quantify the atmospheric content for both aerosols and trace/greenhouse gases from the ground up to stratospheric levels. The main measurements concerned trace gases (CO/CO2 as tracers of smoke) and aerosol together with ozone using instruments such as a gas collector, optical particle counters, backscatter sondes, an aerosol sampler, an aerosol impactor, and ozonesondes. The Groupe de Spectrométrie Moléculaire et Atmosphérique (GSMA) launch facility provided unique possibilities of combining multiple measurements in one flight thanks to medium flights (corresponding to a 6 kg payload). While no major event impacted the stratosphere during the campaign, we particularly discuss the influence of the aged volcanic plume from La Soufrière volcano (Saint Vincent island) and smoke particles from series of pyroCb events that took place in North America. The burden as well as the optical and microphysical properties of the observed aerosols are quantified from these in situ observations in association with various satellite data.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Nicolas Dumelié, nicolas.dumelie@univ-reims.fr

The stratospheric aerosol layer is a key component of the Earth climate system through its interaction with radiation, ozone chemistry, and its influence on cirrus cloud formation in the upper troposphere (Kremser et al. 2016). Major volcanic eruptions can affect stratospheric aerosol loadings for years with subsequent surface temperature cooling, as shown after Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 (McCormick et al. 1995). However, smaller but more frequent volcanic eruptions can also significantly influence the optical, physical, and chemical properties of the stratospheric aerosol layer (Vernier et al. 2011). The stratospheric aerosol layer has been studied for decades with optical particle counters launched on board large balloons by the University of Wyoming (Deshler et al. 2006) and through Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) observations from multiple locations (Jäger 2005). In addition, satellite observations from the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) missions provide one of the longest records of stratospheric aerosol optical properties since the mid-1970s and were used to develop long-term databases such as the Global Space-Based Stratospheric Aerosol Climatology (Kovilakam et al. 2020). Figure 1 shows how the stratospheric aerosol layer in the Northern Hemisphere has been affected by major and moderate volcanic events since the late 1970s.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Stratospheric aerosol optical depth (AOD) evolution and influence of major and moderate volcanic events since 1975 for the Northern Hemisphere. The El Chichon, Pinatubo, Soufrière Hills, Kasatochi, Sarychev, Nabro, Raikoke, La Soufrière, and Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha-apai volcanic eruptions are labeled as El, Pi, So, Ka, Sa, Na, Ra, La, and HTHH, respectively. “Ca” refers to the 2017 Canadian wildfire event.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Over the last decade, major wildfires affected the stratosphere at levels never observed before. The 2017 British Columbia wildfires and 2019/20 Australian bushfires affected the stratosphere for several months, resulting in stratospheric aerosol optical depth comparable to medium volcanic eruptions (Torres et al. 2020; Lee et al. 2023; Peterson et al. 2021; Khaykin et al. 2020). Due to the difference in their optical properties, volcanic and wildfires plumes have different impacts on chemistry and climate. The absorbing nature of smoke produces significant heating in the plume with induced self-lofting mechanisms augmenting aerosol lifetime and prolonging the impacts. Due to the increased complexity of the stratospheric aerosol layer impacted by multiple sources, better characterizing its optical, physical, and chemical properties is fundamental. While aircraft observations can provide detailed information with a wealth of measurements, limitations including cost, deployment readiness, and cruise altitudes make it challenging to respond to unpredictable events. Rapid balloon deployments of lightweight sensors remain an affordable and manageable way to provide critical information about plume properties. Several volcano response activities have been initiated through Stratospheric Sulfur and Its Role in Climate (SSiRC; Vernier et al. 2023) and by NASA (Carn et al. 2022) that already rely on the rapid deployments of balloon-borne sensors. The Rapid Balloon Experiments for Sudden Aerosol Injection in the Stratosphere (REAS) initiative aims to deploy and test new instruments to make rapid and long-term measurements in volcanic and wildfire plumes in the Northern Hemisphere. The first test campaign took place during the fall/winter 2021 and will be described in this paper.

Atmospheric conditions before the first REAS campaign

Here we describe significant events that have impacted aerosols and greenhouse gases (GHG) atmospheric content in the Northern Hemisphere during 2021.

La Soufriere eruption.

La Soufrière volcano (13.33°N, 61.18°W), located on the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean, erupted on 9 April 2021, with multiple explosive events until 22 April 2021. Using the Advanced Baseline Imager on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) and the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI), Taylor et al. (2022) showed that the eruption went through 32 explosive sequences with at least 32 injections in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) between 13 and 19 km associated with a total SO2 emitted of 0.57 ± 0.44 Tg. The plume reached 40°N by the end of April. Figure 2 shows the zonal monthly mean SR cross-section derived from CALIOP level 1 V4.01 product (Vernier et al. 2009) after screening clouds in the upper troposphere using a depolarization ratio of 5% and removing the data 3 km below the tropopause. The white potential temperature isentropic surfaces are also plotted together with the tropopause level in orange. The multiple volcanic layers produced after La Soufrière eruption are visible between 1 and 16 May and between 14 and 21 km. Consistent with Taylor et al. (2022), the plume is dispatched across the UTLS due to the multiple injections reported during the eruption. The lower part of the plume is transported between 380 and 420 K at midlatitudes between May and August 2021. The cross section between 1 and 16 November indicates a continuation of this transport, possibly up to 520 K.

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Zonal-mean cross section of scattering ratio (SR) from CALIOP level 1 V4.01 during (a) 1–16 Apr, (b) 1–16 May, (c) 1–16 Oct, and (d) 1–16 Nov 2021. White lines are zonal-mean isentropic surfaces, and the tropopause altitude is shown in orange. Data 3 km below the tropopause are discarded for possible contamination by cirrus cloud.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Multiple wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere in spring and summer 2021.

In 2021, major wildfires sparkled across North America and Siberia and plumes may have reached Europe on several occasions. Prior to the REAS campaign, smoke from California wildfires which took place from August to September 2021 could be observed on 13 September in France, during a high-altitude balloon flight launched from the Groupe de Spectrométrie Moléculaire et Atmosphérique (GSMA) facility (see sidebar). Figure 3a shows the vertical concentration profiles of CO2, CH4, and CO obtained with an Aircore atmospheric sampler on that day (Karion et al. 2010; Membrive et al. 2017). A CO profile from the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) monthly mean analysis of November 2016 is also plotted as a reference since Europe was not impacted by wildfire events in 2016 (see section “Campaign results”). Vertical profiles show an increase in CO and CH4 concentrations between 6.5 and 11 km, as well as two distinct levels of CO2 concentrations at the same altitudes (shown in cyan and magenta in Fig. 3). This difference in concentration suggests the presence of air masses of different origin. Back-trajectories from the two median levels (7.5 and 10 km) were calculated using HYSPLIT trajectory software (Stein et al. 2015) and show that one of the air masses comes from a low-lying area different from the first (Fig. 3b). Using the Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) Aerosol Index swath orbital V2 (Torres 2019) associated with airmass back-trajectories, it appears that the two trajectories encountered different plumes on 4 and 5 September as shown in Figs. 3c and 3d (thicker lines correspond to the position of air masses on a given day). On 9 September, low-altitude air masses may have been uplifted from about 4 to 10 km, thanks to synoptic lift above Canada.

GSMA launch facility

The scientific balloon launch site of GSMA is located on the Moulin de la Housse (MDH) campus in Reims (49.2415°N, 4.0679°E), France. It has a strategic geographical location both in terms of road infrastructure and topography (mainly crop fields), which greatly facilitates the recovery of instruments.

MDH site has been active since 2014 with about 150 successful launches, and since 2018 it has been part of the MAGIC initiative (Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Greenhouse Gases through Multi-Instrument Campaigns; Crevoisier et al. 2019). Its objective is to provide a facility for the regular launches of light instruments (<3 kg) for atmospheric studies such as Aircore atmospheric sampler (Karion et al. 2010; Membrive et al. 2017) and Amulses spectrometers (Joly et al. 2016; Miftah El Khair et al. 2017) for vertical profiles of CO2, CH4, and CO, as well as O3 ECC probes and aerosol counters such as LOAC (Light Optical Aerosols Counter). The obtained vertical greenhouse gases (GHG) profiles aim to validate atmospheric transport models and to collect data for comparative studies of satellite measurements [MetOp-B and -C, Sentinel 5-P, Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), or GOSAT] and meteorological models (Joly et al. 2020; Crevoisier et al. 2019).

Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Influence of U.S. wildfires on tropospheric trace gas concentrations in Europe (prior to the REAS campaign). (a) Vertical profile of CO, CO2, and CH4 associated with temperature with two probable air masses (in cyan and magenta) on 13 Sep. (b) Vertical evolution of the identified air masses calculated from HYSPLIT. (c)–(f) OMPS Aerosol Index and possible airmass position (thick lines) from HYSPLIT from 4 to 9 Sep.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Storms induced by wildfires, also known as pyrocumulonimbus clouds (pyroCbs), have been observed for several decades (Fromm et al. 2022). Through the pyroCb Information Exchange (https://groups.io/g/pyrocb), between June and October 2021, at least four of them were identified with subsequent stratospheric impacts (see supplemental material for detailed description). Among them, the KNP Complex fire, which was the result of two merged fires in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, produced a series of pyroCbs on 4 October, and it might have impacted both aerosol and GHG over Europe as shown in Fig. 4. Figure 4a presents an red–green–blue (RGB) composite image from Sentinel-3A Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) taken on 4 October where one of the pyroCbs can be identified. On 10 October, a plume at about 13 km high could be seen on CALIPSO data (Fig. 4b) and back-trajectories from HYSPLIT indicate that the smoke could have transported from the KNP Complex fire to Europe (Fig. 4c).

Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

(a) RGB composite image of pyroCb on 4 Oct, (b) CALIPSO total attenuated backscatter at 532 nm showing a plume in Europe, and (c) HYSPLIT back-trajectory associated with OMPS Aerosol Index measured on 4 Oct.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

To study the influence of a moderate volcanic eruption and multiple wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere, the REAS project was created by joining the expertise of several laboratories in Europe and the United States to combine aerosol and trace gas measurements. It represents a unique opportunity to assess the various sources, the burden, and the physical/chemical properties of stratospheric aerosols driven by volcanic eruptions and wildfires. In this paper, we will describe the logistics, the infrastructure, the payloads, and the preliminary results of the REAS project.

Campaign preparation and planning

Scientific ballooning requires extensive preparation and evaluation of risks to the public, the military, and aviation even when small payloads (∼5 kg) are involved. Here we summarize the logistical challenges for those flights.

Flight management tools and procedures.

Weather balloons cannot be controlled horizontally as their trajectories are completely subjected to winds. However, getting accurate predictions of the scientific payload landing area is important, even critical, when flying over populated areas. To ensure maximum safety for both people and instruments, a set of procedures has been developed, together with instrumental tools and software (see section below). During the REAS campaign, medium balloon flights were also conducted following a new procedure defined in collaboration with air traffic control.

Flight procedure and trajectory simulations.

Several models for trajectories previsions have been developed over the years (Conner and Arena 2010; Sóbester et al. 2014; Lee and Yee 2017; Robyr et al. 2020). Among them, the Cambridge University Spaceflight (CUSF) Predictor is very popular as it provides a web interface for trajectory predictions (Snowman et al. 2013). We slightly adapted the model to use winds from ECMWF’s IFS forecasts (Owens and Tim 2018) instead of the original inputs from NOAA’s GFS forecasts. The former is more accurate over the European region (Martineau et al. 2016; Hoffmann et al. 2019), and simulations compared to flight trajectories showed differences less than 5 km between effective and predicted landing points.

Thus, before any flight, trajectory simulations are performed to determine the best suited ascent rate and flight altitude interruption. To approve the launch, simulations were performed 48 and 24 h before the flight, and on the day of the flight.

Since the balloon launch and landing may occur in populated areas and military sites, we have defined two criteria to proceed for a balloon launch: round wind must be less than 5 m s−1 and predicted landing area must not be within 10 km of a small town (population > 10,000), military site or airport.

Communicating separator and I.R.M.A.

The use of a communicating separator is a key feature of the flight: it regularly transmits the payload’s position and altitude using satellite communication (every 2 or 4 min) and terminates the flight by cutting the suspension rope between the balloon and the flight train using a hot wire. The ascent termination can be programmed at a given altitude, after a scheduled delay, or remotely activated. The separator is also associated with a web interface called (Iridium Remote Monitoring Application (I.R.M.A.), which allows real-time visualization of payload position and predicted landing area (Fig. 5a). Using 4G tablets, recovery teams can access the I.R.M.A. website to preposition themselves as close as possible to the landing zone and quickly retrieve the scientific payloads (Fig. 5b).

Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.

(a) Web interface of I.R.M.A. with current flight trajectory in black: dashed area represents landing area if the flight is terminated immediately and continuous-line area represents nominal landing area for a 29-km-altitude flight. (b) Example of a descending flight train image taken by the recovery team while already close to the landing site using I.R.M.A. trajectory forecasts.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Medium flights.

In Europe, unmanned free balloon flights must comply with Annex 2 of the “Standardised European Rules of the Air” (Council of European Union 2021). This annex defines three different types of balloons (light, medium, and heavy balloons) for which different rules apply. Most scientific flights belong to the light balloons category, as regulations are simplified and allow one or more packages to be carried with a combined weight of less than 4 kg. Medium balloons are subject to more constraints than light balloons, but the combined weight can reach 6 kg. In both cases, one single package cannot weigh more than 3 kg. The main advantage of medium balloons is that they can allow instrument intercomparison or multiple profiles acquisition in one single flight. However, they are considered by air control as potentially dangerous for airline traffic; therefore, flight rules are more restrictive. We have been actively working with the air safety authorities to develop a flight protocol for launching this class of balloon. This protocol includes a 24 h notice before any launch with detailed trajectory forecasts including visualization of areas where the balloon flights under specific flight level (FL-315 corresponding to 31,500 ft; ∼9.6 km) as well as 2D representation of trajectories on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flight information region maps. A notice to airmen (NOTAM) is also issued from the air traffic authorities over the period of the campaign.

The REAS campaign

The REAS campaign took place from the GSMA facility in Reims between November 2021 and January 2022. As the first campaign of this project, the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), NASA Langley, Laboratory of Physics and Chemistry of the Environment and Space (LPC2E), and GSMA teams selected readily available payloads that measure greenhouse gases and aerosol optical and microphysical properties. We also flew new sensors, including an aerosol impactor and an aerosol sampler equipped with a variety of filters [polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or carbon-based] for targeting specific aerosols and organic compounds. They are listed in Table 1 and a detailed description is available in the supplemental material. Seventeen balloons were launched (Fig. 6) and four of them were medium balloons carrying multiple instruments (Table 2).

Table 1.

List of the payloads used during the REAS campaign.

Table 1.
Fig. 6.
Fig. 6.

(a) Geographic localization of Moulin de la Housse (MDH) site with all flight trajectories: blue lines correspond to light balloons, red lines to medium balloons, and black lines to night flights. (b) Medium balloon with Impactor (REAS06) and (c) medium balloon with POPC, NPOPC, and Sampler (REAS15).

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Table 2.

List of balloon flights during the REAS campaign together with the date, time, flight type, payload, weight, and balloon size information. Note that REAS02 flight was also a part of monthly Aircore launches done for the MAGIC initiative (Crevoisier et al. 2019).

Table 2.

Campaign results

The main goals of the REAS campaign were to 1) characterize stratospheric aerosol properties using multiple balloon-borne instruments, 2) test in-flight new instruments like the IMPACTOR that cannot normally fly in Europe due to their weight, and 3) conduct instrument intercomparison thanks to the medium flight possibilities.

The deployment of medium flights was used to gather data from multiple instruments. This allowed us to characterize the chemical composition of aerosols from the surface to the balloon burst altitude, revealing the presence of organic material in the UTLS, alongside with the aerosol microphysical properties among different vertical layers (Benoit et al. 2023).

The balloon measurements conducted during the REAS campaign were predominantly affected by the long-range transport of the La Soufrière eruption. Figure 7 shows the daily aerosol extinction (version 2 product) (Taha 2020) from the NASA/NOAA OMPS-Limb Profiler (LP) instrument over Europe. The top image gives a general view of the stratospheric aerosol content from 2016 to the end of 2022. The year 2016 could be used as a background level as no major event impacted Europe. The stratospheric aerosol content over the 2021/22 period is characterized by different plumes, i.e., from the Raikoke volcano with a signature remaining in early 2020, from fires possibly from North America and/or Siberia in fall 2021 and spring/summer 2022, and from the Hunga Tonga volcano in late 2022.

Fig. 7.
Fig. 7.

(top) OMPS-LP time series of daily mean aerosol extinction at 675 nm between January 2020 and November 2022 above the 38°–60°N, 10°W–20°E area corresponding to the major part of Europe. (bottom left) Zoom of OMPS-LP extinction time series from June 2021 to February 2022 for the same area. (bottom right) Vertical profiles of aerosol extinction from the SAGE III/ISS instrument.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

Figure 7 (bottom) depicts a noticeable increase in the aerosol content below an altitude of 20 km during the mid-2021 to early 2022 timeframe, in contrast to the conditions observed in early 2021, as observed by the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III on the International Space Station (SAGE III/ISS) spaceborne instrument (NASA/LARC/SD/ASDC 2023) and in agreement with OMPS-LP data. The higher vertical resolution from SAGE III depicts a double peak structure (e.g., in January 2022 near 12.5 and 17.5 km) likely pointing to different injection processes and/or airmass origins in the lowermost stratosphere, possibly due to long-range transport of fire smoke.

These results are consistent with in situ balloon-borne observations conducted during the REAS campaign. Figure 8 shows concentration profiles for sizes greater than 0.15 μm obtained by the Particle Plus Optical Particle Counter (POPC) and the Printed Optical Particle Spectrometer (POPS) and three scattering ratio (SR) profiles observed by Compact Optical Backscatter Aerosol Detector (COBALD; Brabec et al. 2012; Vernier et al. 2016) during nighttime in collocation with POPC. Profiles observed in the stratosphere by the POPC and POPS instruments are consistent in terms of concentration values. The boundary layer is visible on both instruments below 1.5 km followed by a minimum of aerosols in the free troposphere and an increase in the stratosphere peaking between 12.5 and 20 km and followed by a gradual decrease in the midstratosphere. The profiles obtained simultaneously from the POPC and COBALD instruments are also consistent with each other with similar profile shapes. The small structures are also well reproduced by both instruments such as a peak in aerosol concentrations and SR near 14 km and a minimum near 12 km on 17 January 2022. Between 10 and 13 km, both POPC and COBALD show a decrease in aerosol concentration/SR from 12 November to 2 December 2021 and on 17 January 2022. The vertical structure of the aerosol clearly fluctuates over the period of the REAS campaign, possibly reflecting a still nonhomogenized aerosol content with the presence transient layers and/or the effect of microphysical processes like sedimentation (Benduhn and Lawrence 2013; Sukhodolov et al. 2018), which will have to be investigated with chemistry transport model simulations.

Fig. 8.
Fig. 8.

Aerosol concentration profiles for sizes greater than 0.15 μm radius obtained with the Particle Plus Optical Particle Counter (POPC) and the Printed Optical Particle Spectrometer (POPS) during six balloon flights of the REAS campaign between November 2021 and January 2022 and corresponding scattering ratio at 940 nm for three flights of the COBALD instrument coincident with POPC on 24 Nov 2021, 2 Dec 2021, and 17 Jan 2022. Dashed gray lines correspond to tropopause altitude.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

The growing influence of extreme wildfires on the stratosphere observed over the past few years marks a profound shift in our understanding of the impacts of climate change on the stratosphere (Fromm et al. 2022, and references therein). The combination of trace gas measurements such as CO, CO2, CH4, and ozone with aerosol optical and microphysical properties are helpful to identify smoke plume layers at stratospheric levels. Figure 9 is an example of Aircore and aerosol measurements integration to further identify stratospheric layers. The presented data correspond to two flights (REAS02 and REAS03) launched on 24 November. The POPC profile shown in Fig. 9a shows a double peak in the stratospheric aerosol concentration between 9 and 14 km and between 14 and 21 km. The lower peak is associated with a maximum of CO, CO2, and CH4 concentrations. CO concentration decreases rapidly near the cold-point tropopause at 11 km, marking the transition between the troposphere and the stratosphere. For comparison, we used the vertical profile of CO from the CAMS monthly mean analysis of November 2021; the levels of CO on 24 November have increased by a factor of 1.5 compared to the CAMS model, likely indicating the presence of new sources not accounted for in the model. As we mentioned, a series of pyroCbs were reported during the summer and fall 2021, which impacted the aerosol content in the UTLS. An increase of SR is visible in August 2021 between 40°–60°N and 9–13 km, which seems to persist but diminish by November (Fig. 2d) on the CALIPSO data consistent with OMPS-LP in Fig. 7.

Fig. 9.
Fig. 9.

(a) POPC concentration vertical profiles for different aerosol radii observed on 24 Nov (REAS 3 flight); (b) Aircore CO, CO2, and CH4 vertical concentration profiles for the same date (REAS 2 flight) compared to the CAMS model monthly output for CO; (c) temperature and relative humidity (REAS 3 flight). The dark gray range might has been influenced by La Soufrière eruption whereas light gray range might has been influenced by North American wildfires.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 1; 10.1175/BAMS-D-22-0086.1

About 100 pyroCbs were observed worldwide in 2021 (Fromm et al. 2022), but providing a direct link to a specific event and the increase of CO observed by Aircore is not straightforward. Back-trajectories calculated with HYSPLIT up to 10 days backward could not be matched with any particular emission during 2021 fire season. The KNP Complex fire injected smoke up in the UTLS as observed by the CALIOP spaceborne lidar and was further transported across the Northern Hemisphere. Together with other pyroCbs observed prior (e.g., Cougar Peak fire), it is very likely that the UTLS above Reims was still influenced by those residual smoke plumes in November and influenced our measurements. Our measurements suggest that model simulations miss the influence of wildfires on CO in the UTLS region as well as the radiative and climate impacts of aged smoke layers. Although much progress has been made over the last couple of decades in improving the quality of biomass burning emission inventories like the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAD) used to drive models like CAMS, large uncertainties remain in the description of the magnitude and injection altitude of wildfires, with expected more significant discrepancies for large fires (Rémy et al. 2017; Pan et al. 2020).

Conclusions

While it is well established that medium-to-large volcanic eruptions can impact the stratosphere for months to years, the growing influence of wildfires on stratospheric aerosols is an emerging research field. To address this, the REAS project, which gathers the expertise of laboratories across Europe and in the United States, has been mounted to profile aerosol and trace gas from the ground to the stratosphere on board light and medium balloon flights. Initiated to respond to sudden events impacting the stratosphere, the REAS 2021/22 campaign allowed us to test instruments, balloon infrastructure, and logistics to be better prepared for the next major stratospheric event. This initiative relies on a unique balloon launch infrastructure installed at the GSMA in Reims since 2018, the only location in Europe to fly medium-weight payloads (6 kg) and up to 12 kg through three consecutive flights. Although no major event impacted the stratosphere during the campaign, we made measurements within aged volcanic plumes of La Soufrière as confirmed by satellite measurements. Aerosol measurements coupled with ozone and greenhouse gases measurements indicated that the UTLS was likely impacted by aged smoke plumes from pyroCbs across North America which took place during the summer and fall 2021. Further studies need to be conducted to better identify potential aerosol and CO sources. Finally, the use of medium-sized balloons allowed us to make the first intercomparisons of instruments dedicated to aerosol measurements as well as making unique stratospheric aerosol collection for subsequent laboratory analysis. Regular balloon flights are now planned from GSMA to continue combining aerosol, O3, and greenhouse gas measurements to investigate how volcanic eruptions and wildfires affect the stratosphere. For volcanic study, the measurement of in situ SO2 will be investigated following the Morris method (Morris et al. 2010). We are also working on height altitude-controlled balloons to increase aerosol collection time at a predefined altitude for instruments such as the IMPACTOR or the aerosol sampler. In addition, our teams aim to be ready to respond to the next volcanic and wildfire events that could inject aerosols in the UTLS. However, significant challenges remain, such as maintaining teams which can be ready at different sites and improving aerosol forecasting systems to localize aerosol plumes. Balloon-borne observations are particularly valuable due to the limited lifetime of satellite missions like with the recent ending of CALIPSO.

Acknowledgments.

Jean-Paul Vernier thanks the STUDIUM Smart Loire Valley Programme for granting a visiting researcher award at the LPC2E laboratory. The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Labex Voltaire (ANR-10-LABX-100-01), from CEFIPRA (Project 6409-1), from the ASTuS ANR project (21-CE01-0007-01), support from the NASA Roses Upper Atmospheric Composition Observation program for the balloon flights, support through the HEMERA infrastructure via the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and Innovation program (Grant 730970). We thank M. Fromm for his feedback on the description of the pyroCb events which affected the stratosphere during the summer/fall 2021. We thank Johnny Mau and Amit Pandit for their technical support in the payload preparations and Fred Brechtel for his assistance in operating the aerosol sampler. We are grateful to Francois Bernard, Michel Chartier, Patrick Jacquet, Gilles Chalumeau, and Claude Robert from LPC2E and Thomas Lauvaux from GSMA for technical help and fruitful discussions.

Data availability statement.

The authors were unable to find a valid data repository for the data used in this study. These data are available from nicolas.dumelie@univ-reims.fr at GSMA UMR 7331, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France.

References

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Supplementary Materials

Save
  • Benduhn, F., and M. G. Lawrence, 2013: An investigation of the role of sedimentation for stratospheric solar radiation management. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, 79057921, https://doi.org/10.1002/jgrd.50622.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benoit, R., and Coauthors, 2023: The first balloon-borne sample analysis of atmospheric carbonaceous components reveals new insights into formation processes. Chemosphere, 326, 138421, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2023.138421.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brabec, M., and Coauthors, 2012: Particle backscatter and relative humidity measured across cirrus clouds and comparison with microphysical cirrus modelling. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 91359148, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-12-9135-2012.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Carn, S. A., N. A. Krotkov, B. L. Fisher, and C. Li, 2022: Out of the blue: Volcanic SO2 emissions during the 2021–2022 eruptions of Hunga Tonga—Hunga Ha’apai (Tonga). Front. Earth Sci., 10, 976962, https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2022.976962.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Conner, J., and A. Arena, 2010: Near space balloon performance predictions. 48th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, Orlando, FL, AIAA, AIAA 2010-37, https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2010-37.

  • Council of European Union, 2021: Standardised European rules of the air (regulation (EU) no 923/2012). https://www.easa.europa.eu/en/regulations/sera-standardised-european-rules-air.

  • Crevoisier, C., and Coauthors, 2019: Characterizing vertical distributions of greenhouse gases from combined ground-based and airborne measurements to validate space missions: The MAGIC initiative. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 21, Abstract 15149, https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2019/EGU2019-15149.pdf.

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    • Search Google Scholar
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  • Fromm, M., R. Servranckx, B. J. Stocks, and D. A. Peterson, 2022: Understanding the critical elements of the pyrocumulonimbus storm sparked by high-intensity wildland fire. Commun. Earth Environ., 3, 243, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-022-00566-8.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hoffmann, L., and Coauthors, 2019: From ERA-Interim to ERA5: The considerable impact of ECMWF’s next-generation reanalysis on Lagrangian transport simulations. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 19, 30973124, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-19-3097-2019.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jäger, H., 2005: Long-term record of lidar observations of the stratospheric aerosol layer at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. J. Geophys. Res., 110, D08106, https://doi.org/10.1029/2004JD005506.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Joly, L., and Coauthors, 2016: Atmospheric Measurements by Ultra-Light SpEctrometer (AMULSE) dedicated to vertical profile in situ measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) underweather balloons: Instrumental development and field application. Sensors, 16, 1609, https://doi.org/10.3390/s16101609.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Joly, L., and Coauthors, 2020: The development of the Atmospheric Measurements by Ultra-Light SpEctrometer (AMULSE) greenhouse gas profiling system and application for satellite retrieval validation. Atmos. Meas. Tech., 13, 30993118, https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-13-3099-2020.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Karion, A., C. Sweeney, P. Tans, and T. Newberger, 2010: AirCore: An innovative atmospheric sampling system. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 27, 18391853, https://doi.org/10.1175/2010JTECHA1448.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khaykin, S., and Coauthors, 2020: The 2019/20 Australian wildfires generated a persistent smoke-charged vortex rising up to 35 km altitude. Commun. Earth Environ., 1, 22, https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00022-5.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kovilakam, M., L. W. Thomason, N. Ernest, L. Rieger, A. Bourassa, and L. Millán, 2020: The Global Space-based Stratospheric Aerosol Climatology (version 2.0): 1979–2018. Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 26072634, https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-2607-2020.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kremser, S., and Coauthors, 2016: Stratospheric aerosol—Observations, processes, and impact on climate. Rev. Geophys., 54, 278335, https://doi.org/10.1002/2015RG000511.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lee, H.-H., K. A. Lundquist, and Q. Tang, 2023: Pyrocumulonimbus events over British Columbia in 2017: An ensemble model study of parameter sensitivities and climate impacts of wildfire smoke in the stratosphere. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 128, e2022JD037648, https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JD037648.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lee, Y., and K. Yee, 2017: Numerical prediction of scientific balloon trajectories while considering various uncertainties. J. Aircr., 54, 768782, https://doi.org/10.2514/1.C033998.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martineau, P., S.-W. Son, and M. Taguchi, 2016: Dynamical consistency of reanalysis datasets in the extratropical stratosphere. J. Climate, 29, 30573074, https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0469.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCormick, M. P., L. W. Thomason, and C. R. Trepte, 1995: Atmospheric effects of the Mt Pinatubo eruption. Nature, 373, 399404, https://doi.org/10.1038/373399a0.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Membrive, O., C. Crevoisier, C. Sweeney, F. Danis, A. Hertzog, A. Engel, H. Bönisch, and L. Picon, 2017: AirCore-Hr: A high-resolution column sampling to enhance the vertical description of CH4 and CO2. Atmos. Meas. Tech., 10, 21632181, https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-10-2163-2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Miftah El Khair, Z., L. Joly, J. Cousin, T. Decarpenterie, N. Dumelié, R. Maamary, N. Chauvin, and G. Durry, 2017: In situ measurements of methane in the troposphere and the stratosphere by the Ultra Light SpEctrometer Amulse. Appl. Phys., 123B, 281, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00340-017-6850-4.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Morris, G. A., W. D. Komhyr, J. Hirokawa, J. Flynn, B. Lefer, N. Krotkov, and F. Ngan, 2010: A balloon sounding technique for measuring SO2 plumes. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 27, 13181330, https://doi.org/10.1175/2010JTECHA1436.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NASA/LARC/SD/ASDC, 2023: SAGE III/ISS L2 monthly solar event species profiles (NetCDF) V052. NASA Langley Atmospheric Science Data Center DAAC, accessed 1 December 2023, https://doi.org/10.5067/ISS/SAGEIII/SOLAR_NetCDF4_L2-V5.2.

  • Owens, R. G., and H. Tim, 2018: ECMWF forecast user guide. ECMWF, https://doi.org/10.21957/m1cs7h.

  • Pan, X., and Coauthors, 2020: Six global biomass burning emission datasets: Intercomparison and application in one global aerosol model. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 969994, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-20-969-2020.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Peterson, D. A., and Coauthors, 2021: Australia’s Black Summer pyrocumulonimbus super outbreak reveals potential for increasingly extreme stratospheric smoke events. npj Climate Atmos. Sci., 4, 38, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-021-00192-9.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rémy, S., and Coauthors, 2017: Two global data sets of daily fire emission injection heights since 2003. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 29212942, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-17-2921-2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Robyr, J.-L., V. Bourquin, D. Goetschi, N. Schroeter, and R. Baltensperger, 2020: Modeling the vertical motion of a zero pressure gas balloon. J. Aircr., 57, 991994, https://doi.org/10.2514/1.C035890.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Snowman, J., A. Greig, and D. Richman, 2013: Cambridge University Spaceflight landing predictor. http://predict.habhub.org/.

  • Sóbester, A., H. Czerski, N. Zapponi, and I. Castro, 2014: High-altitude gas balloon trajectory prediction: A Monte Carlo model. AIAA J., 52, 832842, https://doi.org/10.2514/1.J052900.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stein, A. F., R. R. Draxler, G. D. Rolph, B. J. B. Stunder, M. D. Cohen, and F. Ngan, 2015: NOAA’s HYSPLIT atmospheric transport and dispersion modeling system. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 96, 20592077, https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-14-00110.1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sukhodolov, T., and Coauthors, 2018: Stratospheric aerosol evolution after Pinatubo simulated with a coupled size-resolved aerosol–chemistry-climate model, SOCOL-AERv1.0. Geosci. Model Dev., 11, 26332647, https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-11-2633-2018.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taha, G., 2020: OMPS-NPP L2 LP aerosol extinction vertical profile swath daily 3slit V2 (OMPS_NPP_LP_L2_AER_DAILY). Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center, accessed 1 April 2023, https://disc.gsfc.nasa.gov/datacollection/OMPS_NPP_LP_L2_AER_DAILY_2.html.

  • Taylor, I. A., R. G. Grainger, A. T. Prata, S. R. Proud, T. A. Mather, and D. M. Pyle, 2022: Satellite measurements of plumes from the 2021 eruption of La Soufrière, St Vincent. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2022-772.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Torres, O., 2019: OMPS-NPP L2 NM aerosol index swath orbital V2 (OMPS_NPP_NMMIEAI_L2). Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center, accessed 1 June 2023, https://doi.org/10.5067/40L92G8144IV.

  • Torres, O., and Coauthors, 2020: Stratospheric injection of massive smoke plume from Canadian boreal fires in 2017 as seen by DSCOVR-EPIC, CALIOP, and OMPS-LP observations. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 125, e2020JD032579, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020JD032579.

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  • Vernier, J. P., and Coauthors, 2009: Tropical stratospheric aerosol layer from CALIPSO lidar observations. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D00H10, https://doi.org/10.1029/2009JD011946.

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  • Vernier, J. P., and Coauthors, 2011: Major influence of tropical volcanic eruptions on the stratospheric aerosol layer during the last decade. Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L12807, https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GL047563.

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  • Vernier, J.-P., and Coauthors, 2016: In situ and space-based observations of the Kelud volcanic plume: The persistence of ash in the lower stratosphere. J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 121, 11 10411 118, https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JD025344.

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  • Vernier, J.-P., and Coauthors, 2023: The 2019 Raikoke eruption as a testbed for rapid assessment of volcanic atmospheric impacts by the volcano response group. EGUsphere, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-1116.

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  • Fig. 1.

    Stratospheric aerosol optical depth (AOD) evolution and influence of major and moderate volcanic events since 1975 for the Northern Hemisphere. The El Chichon, Pinatubo, Soufrière Hills, Kasatochi, Sarychev, Nabro, Raikoke, La Soufrière, and Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha-apai volcanic eruptions are labeled as El, Pi, So, Ka, Sa, Na, Ra, La, and HTHH, respectively. “Ca” refers to the 2017 Canadian wildfire event.

  • Fig. 2.

    Zonal-mean cross section of scattering ratio (SR) from CALIOP level 1 V4.01 during (a) 1–16 Apr, (b) 1–16 May, (c) 1–16 Oct, and (d) 1–16 Nov 2021. White lines are zonal-mean isentropic surfaces, and the tropopause altitude is shown in orange. Data 3 km below the tropopause are discarded for possible contamination by cirrus cloud.

  • Fig. 3.

    Influence of U.S. wildfires on tropospheric trace gas concentrations in Europe (prior to the REAS campaign). (a) Vertical profile of CO, CO2, and CH4 associated with temperature with two probable air masses (in cyan and magenta) on 13 Sep. (b) Vertical evolution of the identified air masses calculated from HYSPLIT. (c)–(f) OMPS Aerosol Index and possible airmass position (thick lines) from HYSPLIT from 4 to 9 Sep.

  • Fig. 4.

    (a) RGB composite image of pyroCb on 4 Oct, (b) CALIPSO total attenuated backscatter at 532 nm showing a plume in Europe, and (c) HYSPLIT back-trajectory associated with OMPS Aerosol Index measured on 4 Oct.

  • Fig. 5.

    (a) Web interface of I.R.M.A. with current flight trajectory in black: dashed area represents landing area if the flight is terminated immediately and continuous-line area represents nominal landing area for a 29-km-altitude flight. (b) Example of a descending flight train image taken by the recovery team while already close to the landing site using I.R.M.A. trajectory forecasts.

  • Fig. 6.

    (a) Geographic localization of Moulin de la Housse (MDH) site with all flight trajectories: blue lines correspond to light balloons, red lines to medium balloons, and black lines to night flights. (b) Medium balloon with Impactor (REAS06) and (c) medium balloon with POPC, NPOPC, and Sampler (REAS15).

  • Fig. 7.

    (top) OMPS-LP time series of daily mean aerosol extinction at 675 nm between January 2020 and November 2022 above the 38°–60°N, 10°W–20°E area corresponding to the major part of Europe. (bottom left) Zoom of OMPS-LP extinction time series from June 2021 to February 2022 for the same area. (bottom right) Vertical profiles of aerosol extinction from the SAGE III/ISS instrument.

  • Fig. 8.

    Aerosol concentration profiles for sizes greater than 0.15 μm radius obtained with the Particle Plus Optical Particle Counter (POPC) and the Printed Optical Particle Spectrometer (POPS) during six balloon flights of the REAS campaign between November 2021 and January 2022 and corresponding scattering ratio at 940 nm for three flights of the COBALD instrument coincident with POPC on 24 Nov 2021, 2 Dec 2021, and 17 Jan 2022. Dashed gray lines correspond to tropopause altitude.

  • Fig. 9.

    (a) POPC concentration vertical profiles for different aerosol radii observed on 24 Nov (REAS 3 flight); (b) Aircore CO, CO2, and CH4 vertical concentration profiles for the same date (REAS 2 flight) compared to the CAMS model monthly output for CO; (c) temperature and relative humidity (REAS 3 flight). The dark gray range might has been influenced by La Soufrière eruption whereas light gray range might has been influenced by North American wildfires.

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