NASA ATTREX Project to Perform Real Climate Science in Upper Atmosphere

Posted: January 13, 2013 by tallbloke in atmosphere, climate, Clouds, cosmic rays, data, general circulation, ozone, solar system dynamics

My thanks to commenter ‘scute’ for this NASA news feed item:


NASA engineers integrate instrumentation into the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft capable of flying at 65,000 feet


WASHINGTON — Starting this month, NASA will send a remotely piloted
research aircraft as high as 65,000 feet over the tropical Pacific
Ocean to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers
to how a warming climate is changing Earth.

The first flights of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment
(ATTREX), a multi-year airborne science campaign with a heavily
instrumented Global Hawk aircraft, will take off from and be operated
by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in
California. The Global Hawk is able to make 30-hour flights.

Water vapor and ozone in the stratosphere can have a large impact on
Earth’s climate. The processes that drive the rise and fall of these
compounds, especially water vapor, are not well understood. This
limits scientists’ ability to predict how these changes will
influence global climate in the future.

ATTREX will study moisture
and chemical composition in the upper regions of the troposphere, the
lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. The tropopause layer between the
troposphere and stratosphere, 8 miles to 11 miles above Earth’s
surface, is the point where water vapor, ozone and other gases enter
the stratosphere.

Studies have shown even small changes in stratospheric humidity may
have significant climate impacts. Predictions of stratospheric
humidity changes are uncertain because of gaps in the understanding
of the physical processes occurring in the tropical tropopause layer.
ATTREX will use the Global Hawk to carry instruments to sample this
layer near the equator off the coast of Central America.

“The ATTREX payload will provide unprecedented measurements of the
tropical tropopause,” said Eric Jensen, ATTREX principal investigator
at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “This is our
first opportunity to sample the tropopause region during winter in
the northern hemisphere when it is coldest and extremely dry air
enters the stratosphere.”

Led by Jensen and project manager Dave Jordan of Ames, ATTREX
scientists installed 11 instruments in the Global Hawk. The
instruments include remote sensors for measuring clouds, trace gases
and temperatures above and below the aircraft, as well as instruments
to measure water vapor, cloud properties, meteorological conditions,
radiation fields and numerous trace gases around the aircraft.
Engineering test flights conducted in 2011 ensured the aircraft and
instruments operated well at the very cold temperatures encountered
at high altitudes in the tropics, which can reach minus 115 degrees

Six science flights are planned between Jan. 16 and March 15. The
ATTREX team also is planning remote deployments to Guam and Australia
in 2014. Scientists hope to use the acquired data to improve global
model predictions of stratospheric humidity and composition.
The ATTREX team consists of investigators from Ames and three other
NASA facilities; the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, Calif. The team also includes investigators from the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Center for
Atmospheric Research, academia, and private industry.

ATTREX is one of the first investigations in NASA’s new Venture-class
series of low- to moderate-cost projects. The Earth Venture missions
are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program managed by
Langley. These small, targeted science investigations complement
NASA’s larger science research satellite missions.

ATTREX is one of several active science missions that will be featured
during a NASA Airborne Science Mission media day at Dryden on Jan.
25. Reporters interested in attending should submit requests for
credentials to Dryden’s Public Affairs Office by Jan. 11, either by
email at or by telephone at 661-276-3449. Media
representatives wishing to participate must be U.S. citizens or
permanent resident aliens on assignment from a verifiable media
organization. No substitutions of non-credentialed personnel will be

For more information about the ATTREX mission, visit:

  1. Stephen Wilde says:

    Better than nothing but I think they should also look above the poles and up as high as the mesopause.

  2. Scute says:

    Thanks Tallbloke. One of the reasons I flagged this up was because NOAA and GISS (a subsidiary of Goddard Space Flight Centre) are associated with this. They are prime movers in the IPCC and are closely involved in the AR5 draft document.

    So, when that huge fracas was going on a couple of weeks ago over Alec Rawls’ leaking of the AR5, specifically regarding the admission of the chapter 7 authors of a substantial link between GCR and water vapor, where were NOAA and GISS? Were they gloating over the fact that Rawls had single-handedly took on the IPCC and the world media only to be misquoted and his main argument traduced and buried under a frenzy of spin? And all the while polishing off their ‘radiation’ and ‘water vapour’ instruments for their Global Hawk?

    NOAA and GISS couldn’t have missed the Rawls media fanfare. So while Stephen Sherwood was denying any significance of his including 3 peer reviewed papers in chapter 7 on the GCR link, the two biggest players in the IPCC, who knew differently, were prepared to sit on their hands and watch him completely misrepresent Alec Rawls’ cogent thinking. As a result Rawls appeared to most casual readers around the world to be a complete buffoon whereas, in reality he is propounding exactly the same reasoning as NOAA and GISS: namely, there’s something going on up there with GCR’s- let’s make a concerted effort to find out.


  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘answers to how a warming climate is changing Earth’

    Is that even the right question?

    PS I think I mentioned this last week 😕

    [Reply] Apols for missing it, H/T to you too.

  4. michael hart says:

    minus 115 degrees Fahrenheit=~191.5 K