DOE begins climate research at Cape Cod

-A A +A

Science: LANL involved in many facets of the study

The Department of Energy today announced that scientists are beginning an air particles research initiative at Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts designed to improve model simulations of the Earth’s climate system.

Specifically, experiments will use dozens of instruments on the ground and in the air to measure cloud properties and tiny particles in the air, such as dust, soot and sea salt—referred to as aerosols.  Addressing the question of how aerosols interact with clouds and change over time will significantly improve the accuracy of computer models that simulate Earth’s climate system.  

"This research is critically important to better understand the Earth’s climate, including the intricacies of how aerosols and clouds evolve and affect the climate system,” said Dr. Bill Brinkman, Director of the Office of Science. “The experiment at Cape Cod will provide the data needed to increase confidence in the models that predict the future climate.”

The ARM Climate Research Facility is one of the department’s Office of Science user facilities, with heavily instrumented fixed research sites in Oklahoma, Alaska, and the tropical Western Pacific. It also provides two mobile facilities and an aerial facility to support research around the world.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory operates the ARM Mobile Facility for this study, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory operates the ARM Aerial Facility.

Gary Geernaert, Division Director of the Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, Wanda Ferrell, Program Manager for the ARM Climate Research Facility, George Price, Superintendent of Cape Cod National Seashore and Mike Caldwell, National Park Service Northeast Deputy Regional Director were among those who attended the event for the research at Cape Cod. Cape Cod National Seashore was chosen for the $9 million study due to its unique geography—a long, isolated coastal spit downwind of major metropolitan areas.

This makes it an ideal location for studying aerosols in an environment with varying degrees of cloudiness, as well as clean and polluted conditions.  The full-year deployment allows researchers to obtain data spanning all four seasons, showing details of how aerosols change as they move from North America out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sponsored by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, the yearlong experiment features a mobile observatory operating from a coastal bluff near the Seashore’s Highlands Center.  This observatory, called the ARM Mobile Facility, includes dozens of instruments that take continuous ground-based measurements of clouds, aerosols, and other atmospheric properties.   

In addition, two research aircraft based out of Barnstable, Mass., are flying over the site and over the ocean to obtain similar measurements from the air in two “atmospheric columns.”