Graphic representing the ATOMIC field campaign with NOAA Ship Ron Brown, P-3 Aircraft, RAAVEN drone, wave gliders, and surface drifters

About

From early January through mid-February 2020, NOAA is partnering with several universities and other programs to lead the Atlantic Tradewind Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC). The field study will take place in the tropical North Atlantic east of Barbados and investigate cloud and air-sea interaction processes with the goal of advancing understanding and prediction of U.S. weather and climate. ATOMIC is the U.S. complement to the European field campaign called EUREC4A. This collaborative effort involves a unique combination of ships, piloted and remotely-controlled aircraft, and remotely-controlled ocean vehicles to characterize ocean and atmospheric properties. A suite of instruments will be deployed from NOAA's research ship Ronald H. Brown and WP-3D Orion "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft, and on land.

The focus area of ATOMIC is in the heart of the trade winds and representative of other regions across the global ocean with shallow convective clouds. Some of the Earth’s largest ocean eddies (circular currents) also shed into this region from the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. Conducting the study during winter allows researchers to observe the ocean, air, and clouds in near isolation from hurricane impacts, and to gain better insight into the ocean's involvement in making clouds that affect larger weather and climate patterns.

Improved understanding of air—sea interactions in this region will help advance representations of these processes in NOAA’s model forecast systems. This effort will also improve the numerical guidance used to predict weather and climate extremes.


Science Contact: Chris.Fairall@noaa.gov
Media Contact: Monica.Allen@noaa.gov

Partners

ATOMIC is supported by the NOAA Climate Program Office Climate Variability and Predictability Program, NOAA UAS Program, and NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL), with additional participation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Physical Oceanography program. It involves scientists from PSL, NOAA's Chemical Sciences Laboratory, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the University of Colorado (CIRES and IRISS), the University of Washington along with several other U.S. universities, the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, and pilots and crew from the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

The EUREC4A campaign includes institutions from Germany, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Barbados.

Latest GOES-East Satellite image of the region
Latest GOES-East Satellite image of the region.
Infographic about the ATOMIC mission
The NOAA ATOMIC field campaign will work with scientists from Europe and the island nation of Barbados to study how the upper ocean and lower atmosphere influence and control the development of marine clouds. Graphic by Carlyn Iverson, NOAA Climate.gov.
Go to Forecast Briefing

Background

Clouds close to the surface of the ocean, called shallow convective clouds, are found around the world – but poorly represented in weather and climate models.

Shallow convection, the effects of clouds on the ocean surface energy budget, and oceanic processes are relevant to a myriad NOAA applications such as climate sensitivity, propagation of the Madden-Julian Oscillations (MJO), hurricane track and intensity, annual movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, midlatitude storm tracks, and marine stratocumulus cloud regions. Shallow convection is also an important issue for weather forecast models over land, with implications for convective inhibition and the initiation of thunderstorms or for solar energy forecasting. The oceanic region of interest is the middle of the Atlantic Warm Pool.

For ATOMIC, NOAA brings their unique observing platforms to complement the European field campaign, EUREC4A. NOAA’s science objectives will emphasize energy exchange between the ocean and atmosphere, and cloud–aerosol interactions. It is expected that this work will be done by NOAA in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

The campaign has been endorsed by the World Climate Research Programme's CLIVAR project.

Map showing location of ATOMIC/EUREC4A observation deployments
Area of field operations for ATOMIC/EUREC4A showing 'Tradewind Alley' and the Barbados Cloud Observatory (BCO) central measurement area (the green semi-circle defines the radar coverage). Additional research vessels will contribute to these measurements while also exploring the influence and evolution of ocean eddies that frequently ramble toward Barbados from the southeast along the 'Boulevard des Tourbillons'.
NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown

NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

NOAA P-3 Aircraft

NOAA WP-3D Orion aircraft

Wave Glider and SWIFT drifting buoy

A Wave Glider and SWIFT drifting buoy

CU/IRISS RAAVEN drone

CU/IRISS RAAVEN drone

PSL Contributions

NOAA and CIRES researchers from the Physical Sciences Laboratory will collect measurements using the Air-Sea Flux System and additional oceanographic instruments aboard the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown. In partnership with the University of Washington, PSL will collect similar observations of near-surface atmospheric conditions, air-sea energy exchanges, waves, and the upper ocean from six drifting SWIFT drifting buoys and two Wave Gliders. On the NOAA P-3 aircraft, measurements will be taken by the W-Band cloud radar, stepped frequency microwave radiometer for wind, wide swath radar altimeter for waves, and tail Doppler X-band precipitation radar. In parnership with the University of Colorado (CIRES and IRISS), PSL's newly-developed miniFlux instrument package will fly on a small, island-based RAAVEN drone. PSL will also provide forecast guidance for planning and conduct post-experiment data and model analysis.


PSL Team

Ludovic Bariteau
Ludovic Bariteau
CIRES Research Scientist
Gijs de Boer
Gijs de Boer
CIRES Researcher (RAAVEN and P3)
Juliana Dias
Juliana Dias
Forecast Lead
Chris Fairall
Chris Fairall
Experiment Principal Investigator
Maria Gehne
Maria Gehne
CIRES Research Scientist
Mimi Hughes
Mimi Hughes
Research Meteorologist
Janet Intrieri
Janet Intrieri
RHB Chief Scientist Leg 2, and UAS
Ken Moran
Ken Moran
CIRES Engineer
Jackson Osborn
Jackson Osborn
Engineer
Sergio Pezoa
Sergio Pezoa
Engineer
Robert Pincus
Robert Pincus
CIRES Research Scientist
Roger Pulwarty
Roger Pulwarty
Senior Scientist
Elizabeth Thompson
Elizabeth Thompson
Experiment Principal Investigator
Aaron Wang
Aaron Wang
CIRES Research Scientist
Robert Webb
Robert Webb
PSL Director and Research Scientist

Meetings

Title Dates Materials
NOAA ATOMIC Planning Meeting, Boulder, CO July 29-30, 2019 Agenda Visitor Info Contacts