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Have profiling microwave radiometer, will travel

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory set to launch million-dollar mobile atmospheric-measuring station on worldwide tour to fill data gaps in global climate models

January 27, 2005 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – Balloon-borne sounding system. Check. Micropulse lidar. Check. Infrared thermometer. Check. Eddy correlation flux measurement system. Eddy correlation flux measurement system?! Check already.

These and a dozen other instruments and computer- and maintenance-shop-jammed cargo containers make up the ARM Mobile Facility, or AMF, the world's most sophisticated moveable, atmospheric-measuring suite. In early February, the AMF will be carefully packed and shipped from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where the system was designed, assembled and is being tested, to Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco.

There it will be reassembled and take in the local atmosphere, literally, for nine months before heading to sub-Saharan Africa, in time for the 2006 monsoon season in Niger. The instruments are designed to withstand temperatures from minus-40 to plus-120 degrees Fahrenheit, said PNNL's Kevin Widener, AMF chief engineer and supervisor for the testing.

The station is designed to measure the physical properties of literally anything that blows over and the heat that radiates from clouds and from the ground, said Widener, who, with Tom Ackerman, a Battelle fellow at PNNL, designed and put together the $1.4 million system at the behest of the DOE Office of Science.

The AMF is part of DOE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, which already includes fixed sites in Oklahoma the North Slope of Alaska and the Tropical Western Pacific region near northeastern Australia. The AMF expands the ARM program's reach into additional climatic regions, providing critical information now missing in models.

Besides PNNL's engineering team, key collaborators in the AMF project include Argonne, Brookhaven and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information, see and

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Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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