18th August 2013 – morning flight
Today marks the end of the August flying campaign for MAMM, a whilst there will be a transit back to the UK tomorrow (as well as hopefully some methane measurements over the off shore oil rigs in the North Sea), today’s flights are the last to be making methane measurements over the Arctic wetlands.
As the Blue Team began their morning flight things didn’t look to great weather-wise, and it was feared that we wouldn’t get the opportunity to descend through the cloud layer to make the necessary low level measurements.
However, the pilots spotted a gap in the clouds just North of the Gulf of Bothnia and took us down. From there the weather kept on getting better, and there was a sufficient break in the cloud layer to enable us to add an additional leg to the flight plan, making box measurements over the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) site in Sodankylä, Finland, which will be used for intercomparison work.
This was an excellent example of superb communication between the instrument scientists, the mission scientists, and the pilots, which meant that we were able to adapt our original aims to take advantage of the conditions.
It was of course further proof that the Blue/Azure/Green team were top dog (although the help that we received from Red Team in terms of coordinating with the TCCON site to inform them of our intended flight path was also vital to our success, and definitely deserves a mention, albeit grudgingly and definitely in parenthesis).
As the Red Team member who was co-ordinating with the Blue Team during their flight, I must emphasise the crucial role I played in using the chat room to keep up to date with the Blue Team and their new plans, and then making a phone call to the TCCON site manager. Yes, that was about all I did, and I feel very proud of myself.
As I write this (on Monday afternoon), on a commercial flight home, the ARA will be flying around gas fields in the North Sea, and will then fly over East Anglia to hopefully sample some agricultural or landfill emissions.
That will be the final flight for this campaign, until our next one in September. But back to yesterday afternoon’s flight, which followed on from the surprise hit that was the morning flight. Coming off the aircraft, the Blue Team were positively glowing with excitement at how well it had gone. We could not be out done, so we were determined to see ours through as well as we possibly could.
I was wearing my Michelle “Sticks to the Plan” Cain t-shirt (from a previous campaign), and that is pretty much what we did. And it worked very well too. We flew the same path as the morning’s flight (except for the TCCON part), and I think we saw the build up of methane form the day’s wetland emissions.
Until we have calibrated the methane measurements, we won’t know if this is the case, but from the information we have so far, we think there was more methane in the afternoon. We should then be able to work out how much was added to the atmosphere over the course of the day, which is one of the project’s aims.
The University of Lund’s Sky Arrow also flew today. They took off shortly after us, and flew the first section of our flight plan. The Sky Arrow is a lightweight aircraft, with room for the pilot and either one other person, or some kit to make measurements.
Clearly, they took the latter! They also flew over to Abisko, where we have some ground measurements ongoing. We are all keen to find out what their measurements are and how they compare to our own.
Overall, I felt that this was a great day to end on — for me at least, some others are still out there! In between the two flights, we gathered everyone who was around to have a group photo, so we will all have a little reminder of the campaign.
–Dr Michelle Cain, University of Cambridge
To view the MAMM blog click here.
Image credits: Michelle Cain and John Pyle.