Blog: MAMM - First full day of flying

Published: 17 Aug 2013

Flight 1

The first full day of MAMM flying kicked off at 9 am local time, as the FAAM Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) took to the skies to begin the morning’s measurements of wetland emissions.

Only for some of the MAMM team things began an awful lot earlier than take off, with the engineers and some of the instrument scientists having to report for duty at an eye watering 5am local time! This is even more unsociable when you convert it into in Zulu time, the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) used by all pilots, regardless of location, thereby avoiding confusion when flying between time zones. In Zulu time some of the crew were at the hanger for 3 am, something that even Michael Caine and his welsh fighting choir would have balked at.

After take-off from Kiruna airport the ARA flew North and then West towards the Fino-Russian border, where it then began a series of raster patterns at low altitudes, flying over the Northern Finnish wetlands looking for gradients in the methane emissions as we traversed the landscape from East – West and then North to South. (Check out this podcast to find out more.) Early results are hard to quantify without rigorous calibration, but looking at the raw data it appeared as though there were definitely some detectable gradients in the methane across some of the East-West transits, especially in the more Southern regions towards the Gulf of Bothnia. It was postulated that one of the methane spikes in this region was related to agriculture, as it dropped off as we moved from farmland into more of a mixed-forest landscape.

–Dr Sam Illingworth, University of Manchester.

Flight 2

We followed exactly the same flight path as this morning’s flight. Credit to the amazing (auto) pilots! Like the earlier flight, we also saw gradual changes in the methane concentration as we traversed east to went and north to south.

With the low wind speeds we were in, we should be able to get a good picture of how much methane was coming out from the ground in the region we flew over.

This morning, I and the rest of the red team (Keith Bower and John Pyle) are planning tomorrow’s flights, and checking up on the current weather for the blue (or azure to some) team, who are flying right now! They have seen some high methane concentrations, which is great, but they have a few people on board feeling unwell, who won’t be able to fly this afternoon.

Such is our dedication to getting good measurements that we will fly low and bumpy (and so the seatbelt signs are on and we can’t get up) without any comfort breaks if the methane demands it! I’ll definitely be taking a pre-emptive Kwells this afternoon…

–Dr Michelle Cain, University of Cambridge.

For more of the MAMM blog click here.

Image credits: Nicola Warwick and Michelle Cain.