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Arctic Methane: Flight Saturday 17th AM

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

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By Dr Sam Illingworth, University of Manchester

What it’s like mid-flight on the Atmospheric Research Aircraft. (Photo credit: Michelle Cain.)

What it’s like mid-flight on the Atmospheric Research Aircraft. (Photo credit: Michelle Cain.)

Reading the last blog entry, which was written whilst we were in the air on the morning flight of Saturday 17th August, it was definitely advisable for Michelle to have taken a pre-emptive Kwells before take-off! The turbulence at the low levels, coupled with the lack of sleep for some of the scientists because of drunken Swedes out celebrating the end of the working week, meant that there were certainly a few queasy tummies on board today. I had also decided to indulge in a pre-emptive Kwells, which given my breakfast of waffles and half a pound of full-fat cream definitely proved to be the wise decision!

During the flight we were able to get below the cloud layer of an approaching front, meaning that we could take a lot of low level readings over some of the target the Arctic wetlands in Northern Sweden and Finland, and whilst we didn’t see any methane enhancements indicative of high wetland emissions, we sampled a rather large amount of methane in an air mass that we believed to have come from north west Russia. Again, without full validation and calibration of the measurements it is difficult to say for certain, but the simultaneous enhancement of carbon monoxide and aerosol (both products of incomplete combustion processes) would seem to indicate the transport of a polluted air mass, with initial back-trajectory models also confirming this.

On the way back to Kiruna we also managed to sample an elevated methane layer at around 8, 000 ft, which from the meteorological data that we had available to us seemed to be the result of us sampling a polluted European air mass, lifted up ahead of the front. All in all, a very scientifically interesting flight for the blue, or should I say slightly green team.

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
Arctic Methane: Flight Friday 16th AM
Arctic Methane: Flight Friday 16th PM

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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