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Feature Story | Argonne National Laboratory

Mobile climate observatory prepares for campaign aboard ship

Following a six-month land-based campaign in the Maldives to study tropical convective clouds, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) second Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) mobile facility, called AMF2, is being readied for its first marine-based research campaign aboard a cargo container ship in the Pacific Ocean.

The facility, operated and maintained by Argonne National Laboratory’s Environmental Science division, is a mobile suite of atmospheric sensing instruments to measure properties of clouds, precipitation, aerosols and radiation in regions where observational data is sparse or existing data is difficult to resolve in global climate models.

The container pictured here is called the Operations Van”. It will be deployed on the Bridge Deck of the Horizon Spirit, a cargo containment ship, for a year, while collecting climate data. It houses the data system that collects and transfers the data from all the various sensors. Some sensors are located on the roof, while others are located inside the container and view the sky through portholes in the roof.

This October, the AMF2 will be deployed on the Horizon Lines ship Spirit, which will traverse its scheduled shipping route between Los Angeles and Honolulu approximately 25 times over the course of the yearlong field campaign. The campaign is called MAGIC for the Marine ARM GPCI Investigation of Clouds; GPCI is a project comparing data from the major climate models. Atmospheric scientist Ernie Lewis of Brookhaven National Laboratory leads the MAGIC campaign.

According to Lewis, low marine boundary layer clouds have a large influence on Earth’s climate by reflecting sunlight and mediating interactions between air and sea. The goal of the MAGIC campaign is to improve the representation of clouds and their cloud-type transitions—the stratocumulus-to-cumulus transition, for example—in global climate models. These cloud-type transitions are an ever-present phenomenon in this area of the Pacific Ocean, which makes the Spirit route an ideal opportunity to gather real-time data.

The container pictured here is called the AOS Van”; it will be deployed along with the Operations Van on the Bridge Deck of the Horizon Spirit for a year. It houses numerous sensors and systems that measure aerosols in order to help determine cloud properties. The stack located at the center of the container pulls air inside, where the samples are sent to various sensors. Other sensors are located on the roof because of the limited space on the bridge deck.

The data will be made available to the scientific community through the ARM data archive located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

More information about MAGIC is available online.

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