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Instruments: All instruments required for ACTIVATE science objectives are mature (TRL 9); these advanced, active and passive remote sensing and in situ instruments provide a low-risk, high-impact approach for both obtaining critical atmospheric measurements to relate aerosols, clouds, and meteorology, and improving models. ACTIVATE also provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the ability of a new compact airborne radiometer to provide an additional cloud liquid water path measurement. ACTIVATE includes a suite of multi-scale models and a diverse science analysis and modeling team with broad expertise in integrating airborne and satellite data to advance our knowledge of aerosol-cloud-meteorology interactions. The ACTIVATE team brings together experts in airborne in situ and remote sensing measurements and analyses, model development, satellite retrievals, and field campaign leadership.

The primary instruments planned for ACTIVATE are:

  • High Spectral Resolution Lidar-2 (HSRL-2)
  • Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP)
  • Dropsondes
  • Langley Aerosol Research Group Experiment (LARGE) aerosol optical and microphysics
  • LARGE cloud probes and cloud water collection
  • Diode Laser Hydrometer (DLH) water vapor
  • Turbulent Air-Motion Measurement System (TAMMS) winds

June 14, 2021

This past week included two double-flight days on Monday-Tuesday (June 7-8). June 7 was notable in that the second flight (RF 80) was a “process study” flight, which accounts for approximately 10% of ACTIVATE flights. We targeted an area with a cluster of clouds and conducted a total of 10 Falcon legs in cloud at different altitudes ranging from ~2 to ~13 kft. These legs and a subsequent downward spiral resulted in 10 cloud water samples for a single cloud system. Simultaneously, the King Air conducted a ‘wheel and spoke” pattern far above to allow the remote sensors to characterize the environment and cloud that the Falcon was directly sampling. A total of 14 dropsondes were launched by the King Air in the ~3 hr flight. This flight and the other “process study” flight in this summer campaign (RF77 on June 2) will provide a remarkable dataset to investigate aerosol-cloud-meteorology interactions with very detailed measurements for single evolving cloud systems.

June 7, 2021

Four successful joint flights occurred last week. The double flight day on Wednesday June 2 was particularly noteworthy. Our morning flight conducted our typical statistical survey flight plan to an area south of the Virginia coast where there was a cumulus cloud field, with some regions evolving into deeper, more organized, convection. Based on that flight and satellite imagery, we set up the second flight to execute a “process study” pattern where the Falcon conducted a series of transects through a selected cloud cluster to characterize the vertical microphysical properties of the developing cluster immediately followed by an environmental profile in the surrounding cloud-free region. Simultaneously, the King Air conducted a “wheel and spoke” pattern centered around the cloud system, with multiple dropsondes launched above, and on the periphery of the cloud cluster alongside remote sensing transects to characterize the cloud and aerosol system underneath. Data from both planes will be used to characterize the range of cloud types observed on that day, with a focus on understanding the processes that drive shallow cumulus organization.

June 1, 2021

The last two weeks were busy with 9 joint flights, including three separate double-sortie days. The May 21 morning flight in particular was intriguing with a mixture of different conditions offshore with the two aircraft flying mostly straight to the east and then returning on the same track to NASA LaRC. Closer to shore, the aircraft observed a stratus deck with a prominent aerosol layer just above cloud as observed by the HSRL-2. These clouds then transitioned progressively into a more scattered cumulus cloud field to the east. At the far eastern end of the track there was a cold pool that we sampled within and just outside. Throughout this and the other flights this past week, there was evidence both either (or both) smoke and dust in the free troposphere. Measurement data will help unravel how these various aerosol types interact with the different types of clouds such as in the May 21 flights. On May 19, we also coordinated the flight along the CALIPSO satellite track where both aircraft and the satellite had successful made measurements.

May 17, 2021

After a short break after the Winter 2021 campaign, ACTIVATE took back to the skies this past week to start the Summer 2021 campaign. We conducted 4 successful joint flights between May 13-15 with interesting cloud conditions in each flight. The lower-flying Falcon characterized multiple layers of clouds and observed both warm and mixed-phase precipitation. Remote sensing observations on the higher-flying King Air detected aerosol layers aloft in the free troposphere potentially from dust and smoke on separate flights.

April 5, 2021

ACTIVATE wrapped up its winter 2021 flight campaign with five joint research flights this past week (RF 57-61) capped off by a double-flight day on Friday (4/2) to capitalize on another cold air outbreak event. Those two flights included an increased number of dropsondes (~10 per flight) to get extensive temporal and spatial characterization of the vertical atmospheric structure as the cold air outbreak cloud field evolved during the day. Notable in the other flights last week was successful coordination with ASTER and CALIPSO overpasses in our flight region.

March 29, 2021

We executed a joint flight (RF 56) on Tuesday March 23rd on a day marked by fairly ‘clean’ conditions in terms of very low aerosol and cloud drop number concentrations in the marine boundary layer. Cloud fraction on this day was markedly lower than a typical cold air outbreak type of day, which is helpful for ACTIVATE which is aiming to generate statistics in a wide range of conditions associated with aerosols, clouds, and meteorology.

March 22, 2021

The previous week posed significant weather challenges but Saturday (March 20, 2020) did finally provide low clouds evolving in a cold air outbreak. Interesting features in that joint flight (Research Flight 55) were Asian dust residing aloft above the boundary layer clouds, in addition to an interesting layer of depolarizing aerosol right above clouds near the end of flight as observed by the HSRL-2; it is unclear what the source of that layer was, but data analysis with the Falcon data will help unravel those details.

March 15, 2021

ACTIVATE conducted four more successful joint flights (Research Flights 51-54) this past week. We characterized a variety of cloud conditions including post-frontal clouds associated with another cold air outbreak on Monday (March 8) in contrast to the following day (Tuesday March 9) where there was a sharp inversion with uniform cloud top heights and generally thin clouds. Flights this past week were marked by influence from local and regional burning emissions. The second of two flights on Friday (March 12) was coordinated with a CALIPSO overpass.

March 8, 2021

ACTIVATE executed three successful joint flights (Research Flights 48-50) this past week. On Thursday March 4th we coordinated our flight with a NASA A-Train overpass over an area with some scattered marine boundary layer clouds. The back-to-back flights on Friday March 5th served two objectives to capitalize on an excellent cold air outbreak event: (i) characterize the aerosol and meteorological characteristics upwind of the cloud field farther downwind; and (ii) characterize the evolution of the cloud field with the desire to capture the transition from overcast cloudy conditions to open cell structure. Noteworthy features in these flights were dust layers from long-range transport and significant new particle formation.

Febraury 5, 2021

ACTIVATE’s had its first joint flight of the winter 2021 campaign on February 3. We were successful to sample a transition from overcast stratocumulus clouds to broken cumulus clouds near our farthest southeast point of the flight track. There was extensive mixed-phase precipitation in areas closer to shore but pure liquid clouds farther offshore coinciding with the open cell cloud field. Although at low optical depth, an interesting aerosol layer was observed above 6 km that most likely was dust due to its depolarizing nature.

January 30, 2020

This past week ACTIVATE took to the skies again to begin our 2021 winter campaign. In contrast to last year, we started a bit earlier in the month of January to capitalize on a higher frequency of cold air outbreak events. Friday’s flights (January 29) were particularly ideal with both aircraft sampling along cloud streets aligned with the predominant wind direction coming from the north/northwest. We observed a transition from supercooled droplets to mixed phase precipitation with distance away from shore.