Photo by Jim McQuaid
In September and October 2013, the Cloud Lab blimp flew across the southern and western U.S. to make atmospheric measurements. Several DMT instruments were aboard. The CloudLab was an ambitious project to study air quality and the weather's impact on different ecosystems. A team of British scientists manned the blimp, which flew from Orlando, Florida, to San Francisco, California. The flight and the resulting research findings will be the subject of a 2014 British documentary.
The blimp’s limited payload meant that only a few instruments were offered a spot on board.
Dr. Greg Kok, DMT’s Research and Development Director, noted that CloudLab will generate an unprecedented amount of data. “Most atmospheric research is conducted by airplanes in flights that last a few hours,” said Dr. Kok. “CloudLab will be in the air for weeks. It has instruments aboard that measure black carbon and bioaerosols, two of the most-discussed topics in atmospheric research today.”
The following DMT instruments flew aboard the blimp:
- The Wideband Integrated Bioaerosol Sensor (WIBS), which detects bioaerosols like mold, fungi, and pollens
- The PAX and SP2, which measure black carbon, an important contributor to global warming
- The Cloud Droplet Probe 2, which measures small cloud droplets
- The AIMMS-20, which measures aircraft-related parameters such as air speed, altitude, and angle-of-attack
DMT scientists are particularly interested to see the CloudLab’s WIBS data. Recent research has suggested that bioaerosols are much more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously thought, and scientists believe these particles may play an important role in cloud formation.
Data from DMT probes, combined with information from other instruments, should provide an in-depth picture of what is happening in the atmosphere.
Updates on CloudLab are available at https://twitter.com/BBCCloudLab.