Articles | Volume 5, issue 7
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 1699–1717, 2012
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 1699–1717, 2012

Research article 19 Jul 2012

Research article | 19 Jul 2012

Eddy-covariance flux measurements with a weight-shift microlight aircraft

S. Metzger1,2,3, W. Junkermann1, M. Mauder1, F. Beyrich4, K. Butterbach-Bahl1, H. P. Schmid1, and T. Foken5 S. Metzger et al.
  • 1Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 2Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, State Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Boundary Layer Physics and Atmospheric Chemistry, Beijing, China
  • 3National Ecological Observatory Network, Fundamental Instrument Unit, Boulder, USA
  • 4German Meteorological Service, Richard-Aßmann-Observatory, Lindenberg, Germany
  • 5University of Bayreuth, Department of Micrometeorology, Bayreuth, Germany

Abstract. The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and quality of eddy-covariance flux measurements from a weight-shift microlight aircraft (WSMA). Firstly, we investigate the precision of the wind measurement (σu,v ≤ 0.09 m s−1, σw = 0.04 m s−1), the lynchpin of flux calculations from aircraft. From here, the smallest resolvable changes in friction velocity (0.02 m s−1), and sensible- (5 W m−2) and latent (3 W m−2) heat flux are estimated. Secondly, a seven-day flight campaign was performed near Lindenberg (Germany). Here we compare measurements of wind, temperature, humidity and respective fluxes between a tall tower and the WSMA. The maximum likelihood functional relationship (MLFR) between tower and WSMA measurements considers the random error in the data, and shows very good agreement of the scalar averages. The MLFRs for standard deviations (SDs, 2–34%) and fluxes (17–21%) indicate higher estimates of the airborne measurements compared to the tower. Considering the 99.5% confidence intervals, the observed differences are not significant, with exception of the temperature SD. The comparison with a large-aperture scintillometer reveals lower sensible heat flux estimates at both tower (−40 to −25%) and WSMA (−25–0%). We relate the observed differences to (i) inconsistencies in the temperature and wind measurement at the tower and (ii) the measurement platforms' differing abilities to capture contributions from non-propagating eddies. These findings encourage the use of WSMA as a low cost and highly versatile flux measurement platform.