The HIAPER Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) field project investigated the carbon cycle and greenhouse gases throughout the atmosphere at various altitudes along flight paths over the Pacific Basin. HIPPO measured profiles of atmospheric gas and particle concentrations from approximately the north pole to the south pole, from the surface of the Earth to the tropopause (the top of the troposphere), five times during different seasons over a three year period from 2009-2011.
The main goal of this program was to determine the global distribution of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gases by analyzing air samples at various altitudes and latitudes in the Pacific Basin. The following scientific questions were the focus of the project:
- Understanding the global sources (producers) and sinks (storage) for CO2, CH4, and other carbon cycle gases
- Determining large-scale rates of how and where chemicals are transported in the atmosphere around the globe
Limitations of the HIPPO data used in this activity:
- The flights are limited to the Pacific Basin and didn't cover other regions of the globe.
- HIPPO sampled most of the troposphere. At high northern latitudes in winter, it sampled the lower stratosphere, too.
- Each flight occurred on one particular day, which makes the data somewhat sensitive to weather conditions on that day, and each flight series was in one year and things can change from year to year.
Answers to the short response question used in the Evaluation section of this activity:
Student answers may include the following, not limited to:
- Atmospheric CO2 levels would increase in the regions above the fire, but local communities should not be alarmed as the fire plume is mixed rapidly and the concentrations will be less than experienced in a city.
- The South East Trade winds would push the CO2 in the 0-30 degrees latitude band towards the Pacific Ocean and convection will carry it up into the uppermost atmosphere.
- The CO2 levels will be elevated as compared to normal over the ocean.