Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTSS) Begins First Deployment

July 13, 2021

Project: DCOTSS

The Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTSS) field campaign has begun its first deployment after a one-year delay due to the COVID 19 pandemic. DCOTSS is a NASA Earth Venture Suborbital research project that seeks to expand knowledge of how convective storms can impact stratospheric composition, which has a large impact on climate. The stratosphere is an upper atmospheric layer from about 10 to 50 km at midlatitudes.  Below the stratosphere is the troposphere, which is the lowest atmospheric layer and contains most of the Earth’s weather. Unlike the troposphere, the stratosphere is stratified and stable because air temperature increases with altitude. Thus, transport from the troposphere to the stratosphere requires substantial energy to overcome the stability of the stratosphere. Strong updrafts within intense thunderstorms are known to be able to penetrate at least several kilometers into the stratosphere.  The first DCOTSS deployment will soon provide much needed observational data for researchers on the impact of summer thunderstorms on stratospheric ozone, water vapor, and aerosols.  This will improve our current scientific understanding of the Earth system and enhance our ability to predict climate, weather, and natural hazards (which are critical components of the NASA Earth Science Enterprise Strategic Plan).

DCOTSS is led by principal investigator Dr. Ken Bowman of Texas A&M University and consists of scientists from NASA, NCAR, NOAA, Harvard University, the University of Miami, the University of Maryland, Texas A&M University, the University of North Dakota, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The DCOTSS science team has devised a sampling strategy that incorporates high flying aircraft, a surface radar network, and satellite observations.  In this deployment, DCOTSS will primarily focus on the pattern of circulation above central North America called the North American Monsoon Anticyclone (NAMA) which can be readily identified by the NEXRAD surface radar network and satellite imagery. The NASA ER-2 aircraft will fly through the lower stratosphere to target the outflow of the thunderstorm systems and investigate the impact on the water vapor abundance and chemical processes related to ozone and aerosol.  The ER-2 in-situ instrument payload was designed to enable comprehensive characterization of meteorological parameters, halocarbon and hydrocarbon, ozone, aerosol loading and composition, CO, CO2, CH4, N2O, water vapor and water vapor isotopic ratios. The in-situ measurements of DCOTSS are complemented by satellite data products such as Aura-MLS, ACE-FTS, and GOES, as well as operational modeling products, including TRAJ3D, NASA GMAO, and NOAA GFS.

DCOTSS will conduct two eight-week deployments during the summers of 2021 and 2022 targeting early, middle, and late summer (mission calendar available here). The deployment base of Salina, Kansas is ideal for sampling convective plumes in the stratosphere as, according to analysis of NEXRAD data, it is centrally located within a region of the United States with the highest occurrence of overshooting cloud tops (that is, thunderstorm tops entering the stable stratosphere) in the country. 

So far, DCOTSS has conducted two test flights and one science flight.  The publication-quality data products from the first deployment are expected to be archived at and distributed from the ASDC in early 2022. In the meantime, researchers are encouraged to contact the DCOTSS science team to collaborate on research activities. Additional information about DCOTSS is available on the DCOTSS science website.

Related URLS: https://asdc.larc.nasa.gov/project/DCOTSS