Flying directly through thick plumes of smoke may seem more harrowing than exciting. But for members of the CAMP2Ex science team, the chance to fly a P-3 Orion straight through clouds of smoke billowing off fires from Borneo this week was too good an opportunity to pass up.
CAMP2Ex stands for the Cloud, Aerosol and Monsoon Processes in the Philippines Experiment. The 2, by the way, is silent.
It’s a field campaign based out of Clark in the Philippines, flying our P-3, a Learjet and collaborating with researchers on the research vessel Sally Ride to understand how tiny particles in the atmosphere affect cloud formations and monsoon season.
The tiny aerosol particles we’re looking at don’t just come from smoke. Aerosol particles also come from pollution, billowing dust and sea salt from the ocean. They can have an outsized effect on weather and climate, seeding clouds that bring rain and altering how the atmosphere absorbs the Sun’s heat.
The smoke we were flying Monday came from peat fires, burning through the soil. That’s pretty unusual — the last time Borneo had these kind of fires was in 2015, so it was a rare opportunity to sample the chemistry of the smoke and find out what’s mixing with the air.
The planes are loaded with instruments to learn more about aerosol particles and the makeup of clouds, like this high-speed camera that captures images of the particles in flight.
One instrument on the plane collects droplets of cloud water as the plane flies through them, and on the ground, we test how acidic and what kind of particles form the cloud drops.
All of these measurements are tools in improving our understanding of the interaction between particles in the air and clouds, rainfall and precipitation in the Pacific Ocean.
Learn more about the CAMP2Ex field campaign, here!
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