ESRL Scientists Head to Costa Rica to Validate Aura Satellite Measurements

December 28, 2005

Five scientists from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) Global Monitoring Division are headed to Costa Rica on January 14, 2006 to operate an automated gas chromatograph, developed by ESRL, which will be flying on the NASA WB-57F high altitude research aircraft during the Costa Rica-Aura Validation Experiment 2 (CR-AVE2). The purpose of this airborne experiment is to calibrate observations of NASA's Aura (Latin for breeze) satellite in the tropics and subtopics.


NASA's Aura satellite, launched on July 15, 2004, measures a number of important trace gases that influence climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and air quality. Under NASA's Instrument Incubator Program, ESRL was funded to develop a next generation, multiple channel, airborne gas chromatograph which includes a mass spectrometer that measures over 20 trace gases. The instrument, named PANTHER (for PAN and other Trace Hydro-halocarbon ExpeRiment) measures peroxyl acetyl nitrate (PAN), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the CFC replacement compounds: hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methyl halides, and carbonyl sulfide (COS). The common gases measured by both the Aura and PANTHER instruments are CO, CH4, N2O, and the CFCs. The experiment begins with instrument integration and test flights from January 4-12 in Houston, Texas, flights from San Jose, Costa Rica between January 14 and February 10, and return of instruments on February 12-14 to Houston.


The Aura satellite measures gases adequately at altitudes between 20 and 40 km, but at lower altitudes (less than 20 km), NASA requires PANTHER type measurements to help resolve satellite calibration and numerical inversion problems. NASA and NOAA are extremely interested in extending Aura measurements to lower altitudes in the atmosphere where these trace gases are present in higher concentrations.

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