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June 20, 2008

Berkeley Lab, NOAA, NASA to Use Research Aircraft in Summertime Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Sampling Project

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Computer-simulated maps developed at Berkeley Lab for the California Energy Commission show predicted CO2 concentrations in the surface layer of atmosphere from net ecosystem carbon exchange and fossil fuel combustion. During the summer, CO2 is actively removed from the atmosphere in some locations by photosynthesis, and released in others through respiration, as soil microbes decompose organic matter. During the winter ecosystem processes show different patterns, reflecting a combination of cooler temperatures, moister conditions, and the action of different plant groups. Fossil fuel CO2 emissions, concentrated in urban areas across the state, are more constant across the seasons. (Courtesy

BERKELEY, CA — Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of California, the California Air Resources Board, and NASA will use aircraft outfitted with atmospheric sampling devices in mid-June to measure greenhouse gases over California, in an effort to better understand the relative contribution of the state’s GHG emissions to the global total.

The Berkeley Lab effort, led by Marc Fischer of the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, is a collaboration between Colm Sweeney, at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Professor Ian Faloona at UC Davis, and Kalscott Engineering of Lawrence, Kansas. The Kalscott aircraft, a Cessna 210, will operate out of the Napa airport during its work in California. The Cessna flights will focus on the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley areas.  The project is partially supported by DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research in an effort to quantify regional carbon exchange and hence contributions to atmospheric radiative forcing as part of the Department’s research on global and regional climate change.

The Cessna flights will take place in collaboration with the California component of the NASA ARCTAS (Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites) missions, made possible in cooperation with the California Air Resources Board (CARB). This program is itself part of a larger interagency and International Polar Year effort collectively identified as POLARCAT, which is an international effort to use aircraft and remote sensing to study climate change, air pollution, and atmospheric chemistry.

As part of ARCTAS, NASA is flying an instrumented DC-8 from Palmdale CA, and a P-3 from the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. Their work is part of the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) program. NASA’s DC-8 will fly from the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.

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Marc Fischer

In a related project called CALGEM (the California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project), Fischer and his NOAA colleagues are studying the long-term emissions of GHGs in California from several television towers in state. [See for more information.] 

CALGEM is funded by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program. The researchers will use data from the aircraft sampling in both a multi-agency research project to analyze GHG emissions in California, using CALGEM’s ongoing data gathering effort.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.

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