Sandia LabNews

Sandia climate study projects receive $5 million in Recovery Act funding


Two Sandia climate study projects are getting a boost this year with the help of $5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the stimulus package. Both are associated with the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program supported by DOE. The teams, led by Mark Ivey (6338) at Sandia/New Mexico and John Goldsmith (6338) at Sandia/California, are receiving $2.5 million each.

Mark says his team’s share will be used to prepare the ARM Climate Research Facility (ACRF) near Barrow, Alaska, for several new instruments, including scanning cloud and precipitation radars, improved balloon sounding systems, carbon flux instruments, and several new lidar (light detection and ranging) systems.

One of these, a new high-resolution spectral lidar system (see “What is lidar,” below), will allow the researchers to take better measurements of clouds and aerosols and help them build better climate change models. The infrastructure upgrades will include new building platforms, installation of improved power lines, and improved network communications.

Measuring water vapor

The majority of the funding for John’s team will be set aside to develop a new Raman lidar for a permanent facility in Darwin, Australia, and for upgrades on a 15-year-old Raman lidar at a site in the southern Great Plains near Lamont, Okla.

Raman lidar is an active, laser remote sensing instrument used to measure atmospheric water vapor — a measurement important in studying climate change. Water vapor is inhomogeneous and difficult to measure remotely, but Raman lidar enables profiling of water vapor throughout the troposphere.

“We built the first Raman lidar for the ARM site in Oklahoma 15 years ago,” John says. “It has functioned so well that program leaders decided they want a copy for the Darwin site. The money from the Recovery Act is making it possible.”

‘Laser lab in a box’

The equipment in Oklahoma is up and running more than 90 percent of the time year-round and is effectively a “turnkey system” — meaning that it requires almost no operator attention.

John says it is a “laser lab in a box,” housed in a standard shipping container with a window at the top for the laser beam to exit and a telescope and associated optics to measure backscatter radiation. In addition to profiling atmospheric water vapor, the systems developed for the ARM program also profile temperature, clouds, and aerosol particles.

Ivey says the money from the Recovery Act allows the research in Barrow “to take atmospheric measurements that we collect in Barrow and archive in the ARM Climate Research Facility database to a new level.”

“We’ll strengthen our standing as a world-class atmospheric observatory with our improved radar and lidar equipment,” Mark says. “We’ll have a chance to continue our research and obtain a more thorough understanding of clouds and their role in climate change in the Arctic. The Arctic has a significant impact on climate all over the world.”

ARM is the largest global climate change research program supported by DOE. It was created in 1989 to help resolve scientific uncertainties related to global climate change, focusing on the role of clouds and aerosols.

The national and international research communities conduct research at ARM’s three permanent facilities — Southern Great Plains (Oklahoma), Tropical Western Pacific (Australia), and North Slope of Alaska (Barrow) — and a mobile facility. Proposals for use of the facility are reviewed by a science board that makes decisions on which research projects will be conducted at the sites.

Effort started in 1998

Sandia has managed the ARM Climate Research Facility on the North Slope of Alaska since its inception in 1998. Bernie Zak (6338) did the initial planning of the facilities with staff from DOE and other DOE national labs. Mark took over the role of site manager for the North Slope ACRF in 2006, while Bernie continues as North Slope Science Liaison for ACRF.

Staff from Sandia also played key roles in development of the Atmospheric Cloud and Radiation Stations used at the ARM Climate Research Facilities in the Tropical Western Pacific. They also work closely with ACRF staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory on operations in the Tropical Western Pacific and the first ARM Mobile Facility deployed for a few months to a year at a time at sites around the world.

Return to Lab News home page