Atmospheric Gravity Wave Radiosonde Field Campaign for Eclipse 2020

Grants and Contracts Details


Atmospheric Gravity Wave Radiosonde Field Campaign for Eclipse 2020 This proposal will support an effort to observe and categorize eclipse driven stratospheric gravity waves (SGW) using balloon-borne radiosondes during the 2020 total solar eclipse in South America. The gathering of upper atmospheric data with high temporal resolution will allow for continued study of SGWs induced by solar eclipses. The collection of radiosonde data during this event will support the direct study of eclipse induced SGWs while allowing the comparison of boundary layer atmospheric effects. The main objective of the 2020 campaign is to focus exclusively on eclipse driven atmospheric gravity wave measurements. Detection probability is enhanced with increased temporal and spatial resolution prior to the eclipse. The 2020 campaign is designed to have two balloons at various altitudes starting 24 hours before the eclipse with at least one of the balloons in the 25 – 35 km range every hour the night prior to totality. Then timing of launches during the morning and afternoon of December 14th are based on phases of the eclipse (first contact (C1), totality (T), etc.). Similar to Montana Space Grant Consortium’s (MTSGC) 2019 South American eclipse campaign, the balloon launch schedule has been strategically designed to maximize the structure of hourly temporal resolution, with fewer flights the day before the eclipse and increased flights the day of and directly after the eclipse (relative to 2019). Flight frequency during the eclipse is increased to every 30 minutes. In addition to high temporal resolution observations, the 2020 campaign will expand our measurements spatially as well. Rather than limit measurements to a single point along the eclipse path, the 2020 campaign expands measurements to four sites spanning the continental path of the eclipse from the west coast of Chile to the east coast of Argentina. Such data is an effort to fill in the observational gap pertaining to gravity waves that are a known mechanism of momentum and energy transfer to atmospheric mean flow. This proposal will allow undergraduate students to become immersed in research full time over the summer of 2020 with continuing data analysis for years after. The students have helped design the project and determine optimal spatial and temporal resolution for balloon- borne radiosonde data collection. An intensive training will occur the summer before the two- week long event in South America. The final weeks of the undergraduate research will focus on data analysis using wavelet and hodograph methods. Broader impacts also result from student interaction with experts in the field during all phases of the project from planning to field campaign to final data analysis. Such mentoring expands research capabilities and open pathways for professional and work force development by facilitating an invaluable proposal-to- publication experience for the undergraduates involved.
Effective start/end date4/1/203/31/22


  • Montana State University: $55,111.00


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