NASA Field Campaigns Resume with
GMAO and NCCS Support


Lee Thornhill, NASA Langley Research Center, loads a dropsonde for launch from a NASA DC-8 aircraft during a CPEX-AW field campaign flight over St. Croix on August 17, 2021. Dropsondes measure atmospheric temperature, pressure, and humidity. Photo by Erin Czech, NASA Ames Research Center.

After delays due to COVID-19, NASA and partner organizations enthusiastically mounted several field campaigns in spring-summer 2021. Key to campaign success are 12-kilometer-resolution atmospheric forecasts provided by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) and NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS).

Campaign Name Campaign Dates GMAO Support Page
CAROb: Cloud-Aerosol-Rain Observatory April 30–October 31, 2021 CAROb Portal
CALIMA-PH: Caribbean Air-quality aLert and Management
Assistance System – Public Health
May 31–August 31, 2021 Calima-PH Portal
DCOTSS: Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere June 9–August 23, 2021 DCOTSS Portal
CPEX-AW: Convective Processes Experiment – Aerosols & Winds August 18–September 10, 2021 CPEX-AW Portal
TRACER-AQ: Tracking Aerosol Convection Experiment – Air Quality August 25–October 8, 2021 TRACER-AQ Portal

Spring-summer 2021 field campaigns supported by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) and NASA Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS).

Atmospheric weather and chemistry forecasts from the GMAO Goddard Earth Observing System Forward-Processing (GEOS-FP) system support campaign planning and data analysis. GEOS-FP runs four times per day on the NCCS Discover supercomputer.

“Generating GEOS-FP forecast products in near real-time requires dedicated access to more than 8,000 high-performance computing cores,” said GMAO scientific programmer Robert Lucchesi, who coordinates GEOS-FP operations. “On a shared research system like Discover, close coordination with the NCCS team is critical to prioritize resources and ensure products are generated routinely and at short enough time delays to support these NASA field campaigns.”

The GMAO field campaign support team consists of Christine Bloecker, the primary point of contact (POC); Joseph Ardizzone; Austin Conaty; and Callum Wayman, who deliver GEOS-FP data products in the optimal formats for the campaigns. At the NCCS, Ellen Salmon serves as campaign POC and resource coordinator. The GMAO-NCCS team and collaborating NASA scientists ensure that customized GEOS-FP data collections and visualizations are constantly available on the NCCS DataPortal-hosted GMAO FLUID website.


Impact: NASA supercomputing resources enable GMAO to provide global atmospheric weather and chemistry data in near real-time to support multiple field campaigns. The success of the missions often hinges on the ability to plan and execute measurements in data-rich areas, which maximizes the return on invested resources and the resulting scientific understanding.” — Joseph Ardizzone, Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Below are highlights from three field campaigns supported by GMAO and NCCS this season, CALIMA-PH and CPEX-AW in the Caribbean region and DCOTSS in the United States Midwest.

Campaign Dates: May 31–August 31, 2021

CALIMA-PH is part of a NASA Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES)-funded grant to the University of Puerto Rico. The project aims to develop a Caribbean-wide public health early warning system for hazardous conditions related to dust coming across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa.

According to campaign forecast POC Peter Colarco, research physical scientist in NASA Goddard’s Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, CALIMA-PH’s summertime observing campaign objectives were to:

  • Characterize and quantify African dust concentrations, transport, and dispersal patterns using satellite and ground-based observations, and
  • Evaluate dust forecast models with observations to see if they can be improved.

Dust observations from multiple NASA satellites get ingested into GEOS-FP’s data assimilation system, which provides global coverage. Ground-based observations of 10-micron particulate matter (PM10) dust were taken in Barbados, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mérida-México, Miami-USA, Puerto Rico (along with more comprehensive measurements there), and Trinidad and Tobago. Several locations also added dust measurements from Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) ground stations.


This AERONET ground station in Cape San Juan, Puerto Rico — operated by the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras — measures aerosol optical depth, precipitable water, and other values in the atmosphere. Photo by UPR, Río Piedras.

To help guide the ground measurement strategy, the GMAO provided customized GEOS-FP dust forecasts on the CALIMA-PH Portal. These forecasts were “one of our main tools and proved to be a great resource in preparing for incoming dust events, assuring a good anticipation timeframe before starting dust aerosol sampling at the stations,” said CALIMA-PH field campaign leader Olga Mayol-Bracero, formerly with the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, and currently with Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Also, we were comparing the values forecasted by GMAO with the values registered in the ground-based measurements.”

NASA GEOS-FP system-predicted dust aerosol optical depth for June 25–29, 2021 over the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, an example of forecasts supporting the CALIMA-PH field campaign. Figure by GMAO monitoring team, NASA Goddard.

Campaign Dates: August 18–September 10, 2021


CPEX-AW is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) focused on calibration and validation of ESA’s Atmospheric Dynamics Mission-Aeolus (ADM-AEOLUS) Earth observation wind Lidar satellite, specifically over St. Croix in the Caribbean Sea. ADM-AEOLUS launched in August 2018.

CPEX-AW team member Peter Colarco said that the campaign’s “main science foci are on convection and interactions of convection with dust and the dry environment.” Field observations came from a NASA DC-8 – AFRC aircraft outfitted with instruments including Doppler Aerosol WiNd Lidar (DAWN), Airborne Third Generation Precipitation Radar (APR-3), High Altitude Lidar Observatory (HALO), the High Altitude Monolithic Microwave integrated Circuit (MMIC) Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR), and dropsondes.

For the CPEX-AW field campaign in St. Croix, a NASA DC-8 aircraft (left) was outfitted with instruments including the High-Altitude Lidar Observatory (HALO), here being operated by Amin Nehrir, NASA Langley (right). Photos by Erin Czech, NASA Ames.

Colarco and Edward Nowottnick, Earth scientist with NASA Goddard’s Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Laboratory, were forecast POCs helping support CPEX-AW’s DC-8 flight planning and mission science objectives using the GMAO-provided GEOS-FP meteorology and atmospheric chemistry forecast products on the CPEX-AW Portal.

The animation shows forecasted wind speed and height over the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean for August 20–30, 2021 from the NASA GEOS-FP system, as customized for the CPEX-AW field campaign. Animation by GMAO monitoring team, NASA Goddard.

Campaign Dates: June 9–August 23, 2021


DCOTSS is a two-year project studying the impacts of intense summer thunderstorms on the stratosphere — the second lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere. Per NASA, this field campaign’s goal is to “understand how dynamic and chemical processes interact to determine the composition of the stratosphere, and how that composition may change in response to ongoing changes in the climate system.”

The DCOTSS base of operations was Salina, Kansas. Launching from the Salina Regional Airport, a NASA ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft flew as high as 70,000 feet to collect atmospheric chemistry samples towards better understanding material transported to the stratosphere by convective thunderstorms. The aircraft hosted 12 instruments for measuring gases and particles carried upwards by these storms.

The NASA ER-2 research aircraft had 12 instruments aboard to take atmospheric measurements during the DCOTSS field campaign. Figure by the DCOTSS team.

Non-overshooting convective storms reach up to 45,000 feet in this photo taken from the window of a NASA ER-2 aircraft during DCOTSS Research Flight 02 on July 20, 2021. Photo by ER-2 pilot Gary “Thor” Toroni, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

For weather forecasting, ER-2 flight planning, and post-flight data analysis, DCOTSS relied on NASA GEOS-FP and six additional models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Texas A&M University. NASA’s forecast liaison was Paul Newman, Chief Scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA Goddard’s Earth Sciences Division. The GMAO supplied customized GEOS-FP weather and atmospheric chemistry products via the DCOTSS Portal.

The image shows a NASA GEOS-FP system forecast of the aerosol sulfate over the midwestern United States, initialized on August 21, 2021 for the DCOTSS field campaign. Figure by GMAO monitoring team, NASA Goddard.



Related Links


Jarrett Cohen, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center