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Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change
Research Highlights

November 2006

PNNL Wins Contract to Manage DOE Aerial Vehicles Program

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has won a three-year, $6.4 million contract from the Department of Energy's Office of Science to manage aircraft resources for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility. The ARM Aerial Vehicles Program (AVP) obtains airborne, or in situ, atmospheric measurements in support of cloud and climate research.

Through its Atmospheric Science and Global Change Division, the Laboratory will manage AVP structure, processes and operations. Jimmy Voyles, technical director for the ARM Climate Research Facility, will also lead the AVP team in operating a "virtual hangar" that brings together the right aircraft and instruments for data collection activities associated with Facility scientific field campaigns. "The aircraft, instruments, and scientists we work with will originate from federal agencies, other national laboratories, universities and commercial providers, as well as PNNL," Voyles noted in explaining the scope of the program.

DOE's science requirements and the availability of research aircraft will dictate what planes fly and which instruments are used. Campaigns may collect data from focused, short-term field experiments or long-term, routine flights. The AVP team also will evaluate and recommend alternative platforms, such as unmanned aerial vehicles or balloons, that best support each DOE-approved campaign.

In situ measurements enhance ground-based measurements, especially as scientists look at the effects of clouds and aerosol particulates on climate and ultimately climate change models. "In situ measurements of the atmosphere are required to improve our fundamental understanding of the physical state of the atmosphere. This information is used to improve the spatial representation, physical retrievals, and model performance of ground and remotely sensed measurements," said Voyles. "Our goal is to manage the ARM AVP to meet the science objectives of DOE. We also will advance the science of aerial measurements and instrumentation and provide timely, quality assured scientific data sets in a safe, cost-effective manner using an agile planning framework."

The AVP work is funded by the DOE Office of Science, Office Biological and Environmental Research's Climate Change Research Division.

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Experienced Leadership

Airplane in flight

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has a long history of managing atmospheric data collection activities and operating research aircraft. PNNL leads the technical direction for the ARM Climate Research Facility, for example, which includes permanent research sites around the world, plus a mobile atmospheric laboratory designed for deployment for up to one year. Primary activities in overseeing the $33 million annual infrastructure include managing the engineering, integrated financial planning, and data collection for the global facility, while assuring that user requirements are met, and that science proposed by users is consistent with the Facility mission.

The Laboratory also operates the DOE Research Aircraft Facility, which is dedicated to understanding atmospheric processes as they relate to DOE's environmental missions and the global environment. Additionally, PNNL has owned and operated several research aircraft since 1972, including the Gulfstream-1. The G-1 is central to the Research Aircraft Facility, offering an experienced research flight crew, technical and engineering support staff, and state-of-the-art instrumentation.