Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom)

ATom logo

Where: Global

When: Summer 2016, Winter 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

Scientists from NOAA and CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder) co-lead a three-year, multi-agency effort to understand the impacts of human-produced air pollution on the environment. The Atmospheric Tomography Mission (ATom) will study tropospheric ozone, methane and black carbon aerosols. These short-lived climate forcers are important examples of pollutants that affect air quality and also contribute to global warming. ATom will provide a single, comprehensive data set with essential scientific information for national and international discussions about how to mitigate these pollutants. Data collected during ATom will show the distribution, sources, and variability of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting substances all over the globe, providing unique new constraints on Earth system and climate models. The extraordinary data from ATom will be used to validate satellite remote sensing data. This is a NASA-funded project and includes partners from Harvard University, other universities, and industry.

Instrument integration and test flights aboard the NASA DC-8 research aircraft begin late July 2016 at the mission base of operations, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California. Over the following three years, ATom will travel around the world four times, once per season, with continuous ascents and descents to allow vertical profiling between 0.2 and 12 km altitude. The first deployment takes off on 28 July 2016 for a 26-day world tour in Summer. The DC-8 will fly north to the Arctic before journeying down the Pacific and back up the Atlantic with stops in Anchorage, Alaska; Kona, Hawaii; Pago Pago, American Samoa; Christchurch, New Zealand; Punta Arenas, Chile; Ascension Island, Lajes, Azores; and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, before completing the journey back to California.

The second deployment takes off 26 January 2017 for a 28-day world tour in Winter, the third on 28 September 2017 for 28 days in Fall, and the fourth on 26 April 2018 for 28 days in Spring.

ATom takes researchers from NOAA, NASA, and universities aboard the scientifically instrumented NASA DC-8 research aircraft around the world four times to measure gases and particles in the atmosphere. Video: NOAA