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Arctic Methane: Flight Friday 16th AM

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The blue team, aka the azure team, just after their morning flight. L-R: Grant, Sam, Nicola, plus instrument operator Jennifer in the background. (Photo credit: Michelle Cain.)

The blue team, aka the azure team, just after their morning flight. L-R: Grant, Sam, Nicola, plus instrument operator Jennifer in the background. (Photo credit: Michelle Cain.)

By Dr Sam Illingworth, University of Manchester.

The first full day of MAMM flying kicked off at 9 am local time, as the FAAM Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) took to the skies to begin the morning’s measurements of wetland emissions. Only for some of the MAMM team things began an awful lot earlier than take off, with the engineers and some of the instrument scientists having to report for duty at an eye watering 5am local time! This is even more unsociable when you convert it into in Zulu time, the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) used by all pilots, regardless of location, thereby avoiding confusion when flying between time zones. In Zulu time some of the crew were at the hanger for 3 am, something that even Michael Caine and his welsh fighting choir would have balked at.

After take-off from Kiruna airport the ARA flew North and then West towards the Fino-Russian border, where it then began a series of raster patterns at low altitudes, flying over the Northern Finnish wetlands looking for gradients in the methane emissions as we traversed the landscape from East – West and then North to South. (Check out this podcast to find out more.) Early results are hard to quantify without rigorous calibration, but looking at the raw data it appeared as though there were definitely some detectable gradients in the methane across some of the East-West transits, especially in the more Southern regions towards the Gulf of Bothnia. It was postulated that one of the methane spikes in this region was related to agriculture, as it dropped off as we moved from farmland into more of a mixed-forest landscape.

Previously in this series:

Arctic Methane: Hello and welcome to the MAMM blog
Arctic methane: What’s the story?
Methane and Mosquitoes – Blogging Bogs
Arctic Methane: Mr Blue Sky
Arctic Methane: And in the blue corner…
Arctic Methane: Transiting to Kiruna
Arctic Methane: First science flight
Arctic Methane: A night in Stordalen wetland, Abisko

Michelle Cain About the Author: Michelle Cain is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Atmospheric Science in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a Natural Environment Research Council policy placement fellow at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK. She completed her doctorate at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading, where she used both computer models and measurement data to study the transport of pollutants in the atmosphere. She is currently using these techniques to study pollutants in the atmosphere globally, including methane emissions in the Arctic. Posts will come from both Michelle and her colleagues working on the Arctic field work. Follow on Twitter @civiltalker.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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