Aircraft, Instruments & Observing Facilities



photo of C-130 in flight NSF/NCAR C-130
The C-130 Hercules aircraft supports observational research studies of atmospheric chemistry, cloud physics, mesoscale meteorology, boundary-layer dynamics, air-sea interactions, oceanography, and other fields within the atmospheric sciences.
photo of HIAPER Gulfstream-V in flight NSF/NCAR Gulfstream V (HIAPER)
The G-V, also known as HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research), has a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet (15,500 meters), enabling scientists to probe the upper edges of hurricanes and thunderstorms in unprecedented detail as well as study chemical processes high above Earth.

Satellites and Space-based Instruments

Artists' drawing of COSMIC constellation in orbit COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate)
This constellation of six microsatellites uses radio occultation (limb sounding) to study the atmosphere. COSMIC's global coverage provides information on the atmosphere's temperature and water vapor structure, even above hard-to-reach locations, such as Antarctica and the remote Pacific. (launched 2006, news updates)
Artists' drawing of Hinode in orbit

An international collaboration, the Hinode mission seeks to understand the physical links between magnetic fields near the solar surface (the photosphere) and their energetic and dynamic consequences in the outer solar atmosphere (the corona). For example, new measurements will help unravel how changes in the magnetic fields give rise to mass ejections of energized particles that bombard Earth during solar storms. (launched 2006, news update)

Outer case of HIRDLS instrument HIRDLS (High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder)
This instrument aboard NASA's Aura satellite is designed to gather fine-scale data on aerosols and 10 trace gases, including ozone and water vapor, from altitudes of 5 to 50 miles (8-80 kilometers). Looking at Earth's limb (the edge of Earth from the satellite perspective), HIRDLS gathers information by measuring the infrared radiation emitted by atmospheric gases. (launched 2004, news updates)
Map showing MOPITT measurements MOPITT (Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere)
Looking down from NASA's Tera satellite, MOPITT senses infrared radiation, from which the distribution of carbon monoxide in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere, can be determined. Carbon monoxide persists in the atmosphere for several weeks, making it a good marker for the movement of pollution around the world. (launched 1999, news updates )

Observing Instruments, Systems, and Facilities

photo of research aircraft Atmospheric Chemistry Division—Community Instruments
An array of ground-based and airborne instruments is available for use in approved field projects on a broad range of scientific questions. Many of these community instruments focus on measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and water vapor.
photo of portable S-Pol radar

Earth Observing Laboratory—Observing Facilities
EOL develops and operates a full roster of airborne and land-based observing facilities, systems, and instruments. Services include

photo of field site Marshall Field Site
The Research Applications Laboratory maintains this field site for instrument development and testing.
Mauna Loa Solar Observatory
Specialized telescopes at MLSO filter and analyze solar energy emissions at several different wavelengths, providing multiple images of the Sun daily, weather conditions permitting. Data from each MLSO instrument is processed and analyzed by NCAR scientists in Boulder and made available to the solar research community. MLSO is operated by NCAR's High Altitude Observatory.
photo of NVTF vacuum chamber NCAR Vacuum Tunnel Facility
The NVTF consists of a class-10,000 clean room and a coronagraph calibration chamber. The calibration chamber (vacuum tunnel) is used for testing and calibrating both internally and externally occulted coronagraphs. Scattered light, polarization and photometric tests are made. The NVTF is maintained by NCAR's High Altitude Observatory.
map of SuomiNet deployment across U.S. SuomiNet
SuomiNet is an international network of GPS receivers, configured and managed to generate near-real-time estimates of precipitable water vapor in the atmosphere and other meteorological and geodetic information. COSMIC and Unidata are SuomiNet collaborators.