A SCIENCE aircraft of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America flew over Philippine skies on Sunday, September 1, as part of the two-month campaign that centers on weather and climate science.
NASA’s P3-billion science aircraft is part of the airborne campaign of the Cloud, Aerosol, and Monsoon Processes Philippines Experiment (CAMP2Ex) now hosted inside Clark Freeport.
It aims to investigate the impact that smokes from fires and pollution have on clouds, a key factor in improving weather and climate forecasts.
CAMP2Ex is the most comprehensive field campaign to date in Maritime Southeast Asia to study the relationship between aerosol particles as they interact with surrounding monsoon meteorology, cloud microphysics and the sun’s radiation.
Led by NASA, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the Manila Observatory in conjunction with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and the country’s Department of Science and Technology, CAMP2Ex comprises an interdisciplinary, international team of field researchers, modelers and remote sensing developers.
The study seeks to tackle some of the most difficult weather and climate phenomena to understand, monitor and forecast.
During the campaign, NASA and their Philippine collaborators will fly two NASA research aircraft over, under, and through convective cloud systems off the shore of Luzon to gather data on aerosol composition and atmospheric conditions.
The data gathered will be used to improve weather modeling and forecasting, and to assess the impacts of climate and land use change in the Philippines and other countries.
NASA’s P-3B science aircraft is fitted with remote-sensing instruments to measure a number of variables within and near clouds, including those related to precipitation and cloud droplets as well as aerosol size and composition.
Aside from the science aircraft, a Stratton Park Engineering Company (SPEC) Inc. Learjet, fitted with in situ instrumentation, will fly in and around the same clouds at nearly the same time as the P-3B aircraft.
This is the culmination of $20 million in funding and a decade of cooperation between NASA, PAGASA, the Manila Observatory, and the Philippine Departments of Foreign Affairs and Science and Technology.
NASA will make the data available for public use, and expects the project to generate more than 200 academic papers and dozens of research exchanges.
Climate change and forecasting
The region is of particular interest to weather and climate researchers because many studies have shown it to be highly vulnerable to climate change.
For Philippine collaborators, the data from CAMP2Ex will help inform some of the biggest weather and climate questions in the Southeast Asia region.
“Rainfall is the most difficult variable to understand in our models, and it has an enormous impact on people here,” said Gemma Narisma, climate scientist and executive director of the Manila Observatory, a nonprofit Jesuit research institution focused on atmospheric and Earth science in Southeast Asia.
“Results from our Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment over Southeast Asia (CORDEX-SEA), for example, show that regional climate models do not do a good jobsimulating observed rainfall climatology,” Narisma said.
Narisma, who is also an associate professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, noted that recent monsoonal activity in Metro Manila led to cancelled classes and before that, the region had been suffering from water shortage due to drought.
“Our research is showing that more of these weather extremes, alternating dryness and heavy rainfall, are expected in the future. Improving our models for climate projections would allow us to better prepare for these swings in water availability and flooding,” Narisma added.
Ateneo de Manila University atmospheric scientist and professor James Simpas said that increased understanding of the mechanisms influencing those climactic changes is another important and hoped for offshoot of the campaign.
“The Southeast Asia region is experiencing significant industrial growth,” he said. “We’re emitting more and more particulates into the atmosphere, which means that a lot of the aerosol interactions we’re studying now will be most likely further enhanced in the region in the future. The wealth of data from CAMP2Ex will be analyzed for years to come and will shine more light on how our ways of life affect not only us but also the rest of the planet.”
The Philippines is part of what is called the Maritime Continent which also comprises of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sulawesi, numerous other islands and surrounding seas.
These have been long sought out as part of an area of scientific inquiry.
Agricultural and deforestation fires from the region along with air pollution from cities provide a ready supply of aerosol particles that influence major weather processes.
Besides the torrential monsoons over the Asian archipelago, the region also produces moisture that provides rainfall over the Pacific Ocean and can even influence weather in the continental United States.
The monsoon environment in Southeast Asia brings severe thunderstorms and organized convection storm systems, and it is also the birthplace of tropical cyclones in the western Pacific. The world’s most intense super typhoons form just east of the Philippines and are an integral part of the regional weather and climate