NASA scientists are using a Virginia lighthouse, research aircraft and a satellite for a unique field study this summer. On the sea, in the sky, and from outer space, they are hoping for a better understanding of global climate change.
Led by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., the Chesapeake Lighthouse and Aircraft Measurements for Satellites campaign, or CLAMS, started in early July. Scientists are using equipment mounted on the U.S. Coast Guard's Chesapeake lighthouse located about 15 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va., instruments on six research airplanes and the orbiting Terra research satellite to enhance their knowledge of how the ocean affects the atmosphere.
"Ultimately, we are trying to improve our understanding of the Earth's climate," said NASA Langley researcher Bill Smith, Jr., CLAMS lead mission scientist.
Researchers fly the aircraft at the same time, one above another to scan the ocean and sample air high into the atmosphere. CLAMS is using the NASA Langley OV-10, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's high-flying ER-2, the University of Washington Convair 580, a Proteus, a Learjet, and a Cessna. Mission operations and some of the planes are based at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.
Scientists will combine measurements from aircraft instruments and from the long-term CERES Ocean Validation Experiment (COVE) at the lighthouse to improve information from CERES (Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System) and other instruments on NASA's Terra satellite.
"CLAMS is focusing on understanding some important pieces of the climate prediction puzzle, such as ocean properties and atmospheric aerosols, so we can improve estimates of the Earth's energy budget," Smith said.
Scheduled through early August, the major goals of CLAMS are to improve satellite-based estimates of aerosol measurements and to make measurements of ocean characteristics. This will create a better understanding of how Earth maintains its overall temperature or its energy budget.
The Terra spacecraft is an Earth Observing System mission in NASA's Earth Science Enterprise. Scientists from NASA and several universities are participating in CLAMS.