Global Hawk dropsonde observations of the Arctic atmosphere obtained during the Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers (WISPAR) field campaign
- 1NOAA, Earth System Research Laboratory, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
- 2Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Box 216 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
- 3Science and Technology Corporation, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
- 4National Center for Atmospheric Research, 1850 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder, CO 80305, USA
- 5NOAA, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program, 1200 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910, USA
- 6University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences, Albany, NY 12222, USA
Abstract. In February and March of 2011, the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was deployed over the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic during the Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers (WISPAR) field campaign. The WISPAR science missions were designed to (1) mprove our understanding of Pacific weather systems and the polar atmosphere; (2) evaluate operational use of unmanned aircraft for investigating these atmospheric events; and (3) demonstrate operational and research applications of a UAS dropsonde system at high latitudes. Dropsondes deployed from the Global Hawk successfully obtained high-resolution profiles of temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind information between the stratosphere and surface. The 35 m wingspan Global Hawk, which can soar for ~ 31 h at altitudes up to ~ 20 km, was remotely operated from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California.
During the 25 h polar flight on 9–10 March 2011, the Global Hawk released 35 sondes between the North Slope of Alaska and 85° N latitude, marking the first UAS Arctic dropsonde mission of its kind. The polar flight transected an unusually cold polar vortex, notable for an associated record-level Arctic ozone loss, and documented polar boundary layer variations over a sizable ocean–ice lead feature. Comparison of dropsonde observations with atmospheric reanalyses reveal that, for this day, large-scale structures such as the polar vortex and air masses are captured by the reanalyses, while smaller-scale features, including low-level jets and inversion depths, are mischaracterized. The successful Arctic dropsonde deployment demonstrates the capability of the Global Hawk to conduct operations in harsh, remote regions. The limited comparison with other measurements and reanalyses highlights the potential value of Arctic atmospheric dropsonde observations where routine in situ measurements are practically nonexistent.