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The HIAPER research aircraft in flight
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Courtesy of NCAR/National Science Foundation

Flying from Pole to Pole to Measure Greenhouse Gases
News story originally written on January 7, 2009

An airplane designed for science research is flying from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Along the way it is measuring the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which traps solar energy in the atmosphere. Most of what we know about the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is either from measurements made from the ground or measurements made from satellites way above the Earth. Some measurements are made from weather balloons too. But taking so many measurements from an airplane has not been done before. This flight will, for the first time, give scientists real-time global observation data that they can compare with the climate models run on supercomputers.

The plane that will make the trip and collect the data is called HIAPER. It’s a Gulfstream V jet that has been customized for scientific research. Instead of all the seats that fill planes made for transporting people, HIAPER is filled with 5,600 pounds of scientific equipment.

The project, which is called the HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations mission (or HIPPO for short) will cover more than 24,000 miles, sampling the atmosphere in some of the most remote regions of the world.

Last modified February 13, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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