The Gulstream-1 heads toward a smoke plume during a research flight for the Biomass Burning Observation Project.
The Gulstream-1 heads toward a smoke plume during a research flight for the Biomass Burning Observation Project.

In late October, the ARM Aerial Facility wrapped up a busy season of research flights for the Biomass Burning Observation Project, using a comprehensive payload of 35 instruments to measure aerosols from both wildfire and agricultural burns. In coordination with about 30 scientists from 12 laboratories, universities, and industry, the AAF team logged 120 flight hours with the Gulfstream-1 research aircraft to capture the evolution of aerosols in flights lasting up to five hours each.

Led by scientists Larry Kleinman and Arthur Sedlacek from Brookhaven National Laboratory and AAF scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, this campaign successfully demonstrated a sustained, multi-month effort:

  • 17 wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest between July 13 and September 15
  • More than 30 agricultural burns in the Mississippi valley, plus 7 flights over the Memphis area to measure urban emissions for comparison, from October 2-25.

Researchers will use measurements obtained during BBOP to improve model predictions of aerosol effects on climate. These effects range between warming and cooling, with year-to-year variability largely due to emissions from fires. Recent estimates indicate biomass burning generates 40% of the black carbon measured around the globe.

During BBOP, the G-1 payload included several unique instruments to provide new insights into the chemical and physical properties of aerosols, including black carbon.

  • Soot Particle Aerosol Mass Spectrometer: measures black carbon properties, including size, mass, and chemistry
  • Photo Thermal Interferometer: measures aerosol absorption at 532 nanometers
  • Fast Integrated Mobility Spectrometer: measures aerosol size distribution between 15 and 320 nanometers
  • Ultraviolet Photoacoustic Spectrometer: measures aerosol absorption and scattering at 355 nanometers
During the first phase of the campaign, the G-1 operated out of its homebase in Pasco, Washington—a rare occurrence during an active campaign. Local reporters were invited to the hangar for a media day, resulting in a clean sweep of local tv coverage and stories by Northwest Public Radio and the Associated Press, and culminating in a national news segment produced by the Seattle bureau of Al Jazeera America. See the <a href=http://campaign.arm.gov/bbop/news.php>BBOP News and Press </a>page for stories.
During the first phase of the campaign, the G-1 operated out of its homebase in Pasco, Washington—a rare occurrence during an active campaign. Local reporters were invited to the hangar for a media day, resulting in a clean sweep of local tv coverage and stories by Northwest Public Radio and the Associated Press, and culminating in a national news segment produced by the Seattle bureau of Al Jazeera America. See the BBOP News and Press page for stories.

In addition, new instruments—acquired with Recovery Act investments—for measuring nitrogen oxide, ozone, and, sulfur dioxide made their first research flights during the campaign.

In a note of thanks to the BBOP team (see the ARM Field Notes blog), Sedlacek and Kleinman stated that "This campaign represented a high-risk, high-payoff proposition. Fires, by their very nature, are unpredictable. We can report to DOE that the gamble has been successful."

As the G-1 returned to Pasco in late October, the AAF ground support containers headed to a storage facility in Manaus, Brazil. Aircraft operations for the Green Ocean Amazon field campaign are scheduled to begin in February 2014.