Airborne Antarctic Ozone Experiment

30 years – Remembering a major contribution to atmospheric and ozone science

AAOE plan cover
AAOE mission document

Where: Punta Arenas, Chile based operations

When: August - September 1987

What: A major airborne campaign studied the sudden and unanticipated decrease observed in the abundance of ozone over Antarctica in the Austral spring since 1979. Specially instrumented NASA ER-2 and DC-8 aircraft were used to acquire a database on the chemical, meteorological and cloud-physical parameters associated with the phenomenon. The aircraft experiments were coupled with data from three separate satellite systems and ground based sensors located in various places on Antarctica. The mission tested the chemical and dynamical theories of the ozone hole using the aircraft data in theoretical computer models of the chemistry and dynamics of the stratosphere. The collection of data from all experiments was the result of international collaboration and represents the most massive data acquisition ever performed over the Antarctic region.

Who: The mission was a multi-institutional effort organized and funded by NASA, NOAA, NSF, universities, Chemical Manufacturer's Association, and meteorological agencies overseas. Robert (Bob) Watson (NASA Headquarters), Brian Toon (NASA Ames Research Center; now at the University of Colorado Boulder), Adrian Tuck (NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory; now at the Imperial College London), Jim Margitan (Jet Propulsion Laboratory; now retired), and Estelle Condon (NASA Ames Research Center; now retired) held key roles.

Collaborators included NASA Ames, NASA Goddard, NASA Langley, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NOAA Aeronomy Laboratory (now ESRL CSD), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), AER Inc., Harvard University, University of Denver, University of Washington, United Kingdom Meteorological (UK Met) Office, the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), and the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques (CNRM).