The Atmospheric Carbon and Transport (ACT) – America Mission

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  • 1 a Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • | 2 b Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • | 3 c STARSS-III Affiliate, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
  • | 4 d now at Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA
  • | 5 e Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l’environnement, Université Paris-Saclay, CNRS, CEA, UVSQ CEA-Saclay, l’Orme des Merisiers, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • | 6 f NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
  • | 7 g Atmospheric Science Division, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX
  • | 8 h Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • | 9 i NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory, Boulder, CO
  • | 10 j Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
  • | 11 k Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
  • | 12 l Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
  • | 13 m Spectral Sensor Solutions LLC, Fort Wayne, IN
  • | 14 n Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
  • | 15 o now at School of Integrated Sciences, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
  • | 16 p Department of Geosciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
  • | 17 q now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Washington, D.C.
  • | 18 r NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
  • | 19 s Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • | 20 t Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN
  • | 21 u Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, MD
  • | 22 v Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms and School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman OK
  • | 23 w Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA
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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.

Corresponding author: Kenneth J. Davis, kjd10@psu.edu

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.

Corresponding author: Kenneth J. Davis, kjd10@psu.edu
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