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July 13, 2016 AT 6:00 am

NASA Flights to Track Greenhouse Gases Across Eastern US #NASA

Actamerica c130 photo

NASA experiments to help predict climate change, Via NASA

This month, NASA begins an airborne experiment to improve scientists’ understanding of the sources of two powerful greenhouse gases and how they cycle into and out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric Carbon and Transport–America, or ACT-America, is a multi-year airborne campaign that will measure concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in relation to weather systems. The study will gather real-time measurements from research aircraft and ground stations to improve the ability to detect and quantify the surface sources and sinks of the gases.

“Carbon dioxide and methane are the two most important long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” said Ken Davis, ACT-America principal investigator from Pennsylvania State University, University Park. “We have a very difficult time inferring important sources and sinks of these gases, including uptake of carbon dioxide by the biosphere, and emission of methane from a variety of human and biological sources. We hope to improve our ability to measure those sources and sinks today, which should enable improvements in the management and simulation of future climate.”

ACT-America will employ a new generation of data analysis systems to convert regional observations of greenhouse gas concentrations and the meteorological conditions that move them around the atmosphere into more accurate estimates of where on the surface the gases originated and where they are absorbed. These data will fill in the details of how the gases are moved by weather systems, information that will help scientists interpret the long-term greenhouse gas observations more accurately.

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