Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-135
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2021-135

  17 May 2021

17 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Sampling Platform for Atmospheric Water Vapor Isotopes in Polar Environments

Kevin S. Rozmiarek1, Bruce H. Vaughn1, Tyler R. Jones1, Valerie Morris1, William B. Skorski1, Abigail G. Hughes1, Jack Elston2, Sonja Wahl3, Anne-Katrine Faber3, and Hans Christian Steen-Larsen3 Kevin S. Rozmiarek et al.
  • 1Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2Black Swift Technologies, Boulder, CO 80301, USA
  • 3Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, 5020, Norway

Abstract. Above polar ice sheets, atmospheric water vapor exchange occurs across the planetary boundary layer (PBL) and is an important mechanism in a number of processes that affect the surface mass balance of the ice sheets. Yet, this exchange is not well understood, and has substantial implications for modeling and remote sensing of the polar hydrologic cycle. Efforts to characterize the exchange face substantial logistical challenges including the remoteness of ice sheet field camps, extreme weather conditions, low humidity and temperature that limits the effectiveness of instruments, and dangers associated with flying manned aircraft at low altitudes. Here, we present an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sampling platform for operation in extreme polar environments that is capable of sampling atmospheric water vapor for subsequent measurement of water isotopes. This system was deployed to the East Greenland Ice-core Project (EastGRIP) camp in northeast Greenland during summer 2019. Six sampling flight missions were completed. With a suite of atmospheric measurements onboard the UAV (temperature, humidity, pressure, GPS) we determine the height of the PBL using on-line algorithms, allowing for strategic decision making by the pilot to sample water isotopes above and below the PBL. Water isotope data was measured by a Picarro 2130-i instrument using flasks of atmospheric air collected within the nose cone of the UAV. The internal repeatability for δD and δ18O was 2.8 ‰ and 0.45 ‰, respectively, which we also compared to independent EastGRIP tower-isotope data. Based on these results, we demonstrate the efficacy of this new UAV-isotope platform and present improvements to be utilized in future polar field campaigns. The system is also designed to be readily adaptable to other fields of study, such as measurement of carbon cycle gases or remote sensing of ground conditions.

Kevin S. Rozmiarek et al.

Status: open (until 14 Jul 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2021-135', Anonymous Referee #1, 15 Jun 2021 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2021-135', Anonymous Referee #2, 21 Jun 2021 reply

Kevin S. Rozmiarek et al.

Kevin S. Rozmiarek et al.

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Short summary
We have designed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) sampling platform for operation in extreme polar environments that is capable of sampling atmospheric water vapor for subsequent measurement of water isotopes. During flight, we measure location, temperature, humidity, and pressure to determine the height of the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) using algorithms, allowing for strategic decision making by the pilot to collect samples in glass flasks contained in the nose cone of the UAV.