Success in obtaining funding to use Google [x] Project Loon data for stratospheric research

posted 22 Apr 2014, 17:29 by Greg Bodeker
Bodeker Scientific has been successful in obtaining a NZ$87,780 grant from the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) to research the dynamics of the stratosphere using data from balloons flown as part of Google [x] Project Loon (click here for additional information). Stratospheric transport, and in particular barriers to transport, largely determines the distribution of radiatively active gases (e.g. ozone) and hence their fingerprint on the warming of the atmosphere. These processes are often not well simulated in atmosphere-ocean global climate models. This year, hundreds of long-duration stratospheric balloons will be flown by Google to provide internet access to remote locations. We will use balloon position data to reveal in unprecedented detail the transport processes, and small-scale turbulent diffusion processes, active in the southern high latitude stratosphere. Our research will add to fundamental understanding of stratospheric dynamics and its role in climate. We will be conducting this research in collaboration with Kathleen Cooper, a Google [x] Project Loon engineer, Dr. Hella Garny from the German Space Agency, and Associate Prof. Adrian McDonald from the University of Canterbury.

By analysing location data from a suite of initially many hundreds, and eventually many thousands, of stratosphere long-duration balloons, we expect to:

  • Greatly add to fundamental understanding of the physical processes that drive large-scale transport resolved by models and processes that drive small-scale turbulent diffusion that causes irreversible mixing and is unresolved in models.
  • Provide much needed validation of meteorological reanalyses products over Southern Hemisphere middle and high latitudes. The outcomes from this study may then contribute to the current SPARC (Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate) reanalysis intercomparison project (S-RIP).
  • Better understand the dynamical containment properties of the Antarctic stratospheric vortex which determine the steepness of tracer gradients across the vortex edge, the pattern of radiative forcing, and hence the strength of stratospheric jets.
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