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Rivers In The Sky
DOE Gulfstream-1
NASA Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS)
UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory
San Francisco
Atmospheric River
Launch Video
Click an icon to learn how researchers utilize instruments in space, the skies, at sea, and on the ground to collect information about this phenomenon. To watch a pair of videos on the subject, click the "Launch Video" button below.
NOAA Gulfstream-IV
NOAA research vessel Ronald H. Brown
An artist’s rendition of the CATS instrument on the International Space Station.
• Launched Jan. 10, 2015, installed on the International Space Station
The CATS instrument assembly before launch.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
• Location and composition of clouds and atmospheric particles
Credit: NASA
• Wind, temperature, moisture, and pressure
• Flies at 22,000–70,000 feet
Credit: NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
• Aerosol mapping
The NASA ER-2 aircraft flies at the highest altitude.
NASA ER-2 Aircraft
• Cloud height, water content, and droplet size distribution
Credit: Barb DeLuisi/NOAA
• Cloud, precipitation, and wind mapping
• Temperature, moisture, and pressure
The NOAA G-IV aircraft.
• Flies at 1,000–45,000 feet
NOAA Gulfstream-IV Aircraft
The G-IV workstation for the lead flight technician, who is responsible for the overall operation of the cabin and all of the instruments.
• O3
• Release dropsondes
Credit: Jonathan Gero/U of Wisconsin, Madison
Dropsondes and Radiosondes
• Dropsondes released from P-3 and G-IV, radiosondes released from the Ronald H. Brown
Researchers on the Ronald H. Brown release a radiosonde.
Release chutes for dropsondes and AXBTs on the P-3.
• Measure wind, temperature, and humidity as drop down (dropsondes) or rise through (radiosondes) the air
DOE Gulfstream-1 Aircraft
Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN
• CO, O3, N2O, H2O
The DOE G-1 aircraft waits between flights during a storm on Feb. 6, 2015.
PNNL’s Beat Schmid discusses droplet-sizing instruments under a G-1 wing.
• Cloud water content; droplet and ice crystal size distribution
• Droplet and ice-nucleating capability of particles
• Aerosol number, size distribution, and chemical composition
• Flies at 1,000–23,000 feet
• Release dropsondes, AXBTs
The NOAA P-3 interior.
NOAA P-3 Aircraft
• CO, CO2, O3
The NOAA P-3 aircraft after returning from a flight on Feb. 6, 2015.
• Aerosol number and size distribution
• Flies at 1,000–22,000 feet
Naval Research Laboratory Airborne Expendable Bathythermographs (AXBTs)
Credit: Lisa Darby/NOAA
An AXBT placed near a potted tree for scale.
Peter Black of Science Applications International Corp. releases an AXBT through a chute in the P-3.
• Dropped from P-3
Credit: Peter Black/Science Applications International Corp.
• Ocean temperature
The Ronald H. Brown docked within Pearl Harbor in Hawaii before departing for the CalWater study.
• Evaporation and precipitation to understand ocean-air exchange
• Atmospheric wind, temperature, moisture, and pressure
• Cloud water content, particle sizes, and radiation properties
• Ocean temperature and turbulence; aerosol production from waves
Instruments on the Ronald H. Brown included radar to measure cloud reflectivity (foreground left) and temperature, water vapor, and trace gases in a column up through the atmosphere (foreground right). In the distance is the DOE G-1 aircraft.
• Aerosol number, size distribution, and optical properties
• CO, O3, NOx, SO2, black carbon
• Cloud profiling
• Other ground sites collected precipitation and meteorological data
Included in the equipment at Bodega Bay were samplers that captured aerosols on filters and in water for later composition analysis.
• Aerosol chemical composition and droplet and ice-nucleating capability
• Surface wind, temperature, moisture, and pressure
The main CalWater ground site was located at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, north of San Francisco.
Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN
Credit: NOAA Research
On Feb. 8-9, 2014, an intense storm caused by an atmospheric river hit the California coast bringing much-needed rain and snow to the northern part of the state.
RIVER OF RAIN: A California Department of Water Resources video discusses the science of atmospheric rivers and the goals of the CalWater effort.
Credit: California Department of Water Resources