ATom Overview and Updates

Atmospheric Tomography (ATom)

The ATom project is a NASA EV2 project to understand the composition of the atmosphere around the world over 4 seasons. Flying on the NASA DC8 research aircraft, which is based in Palmdale, California, the flights flew between California and Alaska before proceeding down the Pacific basin to Christchurch, New Zealand, across the southern ocean to Punta Arenas, Chile and up over the Atlantic to Greenland and back to California. 

On each of the flights sampled the atmosphere from the boundary layer to the upper troposphere/stratosphere with constant profiling between each altitude. The characteristics of particles and over 300 hundred trace gases were sampled by the various instruments on board. The interpretation of the data is ongoing and will examine a large range of questions about atmospheric composition. 

The schedule for the ATom flights covers each of the seasons:

ATom-1: 29 July  - 23 August 2016                 completed

ATom-2: 26 Jan.  - 22 February 2017             completed

ATom-3: 26 Sept. - 30 October 2017              completed

ATom-4: April/May 2018                                   underway

Harvard QCLS instrument

With Bruce Daube, I am co-Investigator on the Harvard Quantum Cascade Laser Spectrometer (QCLS) that measures CO2, CH4, N2O and CO using two complementary instruments. Both instruments use the absorption of specific wavelengths of infra-red radiation by some trace gases to quantify the gases. For CO2, we measure the difference between the atmosphere and a reference cell. For CH4, N2O and CO, we use two separate lasers with a multi-pass cell to improve the precision. The QCLS instrument is NCAR owned and Harvard operated and has flown on projects such as HIPPO, CalNex, and ORCAS previously.

Follow @ATom_Harvard or @roseAtmos for more updates.


During ATom-1, some of the scientists wrote blog posts describing the day-to-day activities. Links to my posts are on the ATom1 Field Blog page. NASA also produced some excellent videos to descibe our mission using some of my sketchy attempts at videography as well as their own footage from the Palmdale-Palmdale flight. Links to these videos are on my ATom1 Videos page.


For ATom2, we continued our outreach efforts with blog entries, videos and radio interviews.  I also uploaded brief post-flight updates for each flight when possible. See the ATom2 Flight page for more details.


For ATom3, we continued our outreach efforts with blog entries and media.  I also uploaded brief post-flight updates for each flight when possible. See the ATom3 Flight page for more details.


For ATom4, we continued our outreach efforts with a NASA Social visit to the DC8 during Test Flight 2. See the ATom3 Flight page for more details.

 © Roisin Commane 2018