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Advanced Climate Research Funded by Recovery

In foreground, a new platform installed to support new instruments at the North Slope of Alaska site.

New cloud radar assembly at Oklahoma site. 

A Department of Energy program that studies global climate change has nearly finished deploying 143 advanced-technology research instruments bought with $60 million in Recovery funding. The instruments – some new, others newly upgraded – will provide more precise measurements for researchers to use in developing computer models that simulate the earth’s climate. The models are used to study climate changes.

The Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program, part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, covers three permanent sites and two mobile facilities located around the world (Map of sites.)  The program also includes an airfield for aircraft equipped with research instruments.

The new instruments have advanced radar equipment capable of very precise measurements allowing ARM scientists to more closely study the interaction of major components of climate systems. For instance, because clouds reflect solar radiation and also trap heat from the earth’s surface – critically influencing the climate of an area – researchers are measuring and studying not only the size and shape of clouds but also the factors that affect cloud formation. Precipitation – in particular, the exact amount in a given area and the precise size of microscopic bits of rain, sleet, and hail – is also being closely measured and studied.

Sites and facilities and some of the instruments they have received:

  • Engineers finish final assembly of precipitation radar antenna in Alaska.
    North Slope of Alaska – Precipitation and cloud radar systems.
  • Northern Oklahoma – Precipitation and cloud radar systems, and lasers that determine precise altitude of clouds.
  • ARM Mobile Facility 1 (now in India) – Cloud radar systems and equipment that measures air moisture.
  • ARM Mobile Facility 2 (now in Maldives) – Equipment to detect the amount of water vapor in the air and lasers to measure cloud altitudes.
  • ARM Aerial Facility (Richland, Washington) – New data storage/communication systems and equipment to measure airborne particulate matter, like soot or dust, which both reflect and absorb incoming sunlight and also initiate the formation of clouds. (Clouds generally do not form by themselves—a bit of particulate matter is required as a surface for a water drop to form on.)
  • Australia – Cloud radar systems and lasers to measure cloud altitudes.

The $60 million that paid for the 143 instruments was part of a total $1.2 billion in Recovery funding the DOE’s Office of Energy received.

ARM/Recovery Flickr page

More about ARM and the Recovery Act


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