Field of Meteorologists’ Dreams

Published: 19 November 2017

ARM Southern Great Plains Atmospheric Observatory Celebrates 25 Years of Operations

This X-band scanning ARM precipitation radar is part of the ARM Southern Great Plains atmospheric observatory, which has hosted nearly 400 field campaigns over the past 25 years.

Right now over 200 instruments are ticking around the clock across vast stretches of wheat fields and pastureland inside Oklahoma and Kansas. Their function—to take detailed measurements of our atmosphere—keeps them busy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And without them, scientists around the world would lack critical data they need to truly understand the atmosphere.

These instruments make up the Southern Great Plains (SGP) observatory, the world’s largest and most extensive atmospheric research facility. This year the site celebrates 25 years of operations, helping scientists gain vital insights into the Earth’s cloud, aerosol and atmospheric processes.

The site, managed by Environmental Science Division researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, is the first and largest one established by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility. As a DOE Office of Science user facility, ARM offers scientific data and support to advance scientific inquiry across a wide variety of fields.

The site’s more than 200 instruments measure the atmosphere in countless ways, including solar radiation, rain or snowfall, cloud properties, winds, pollution, humidity and temperature. Researchers glean these data to enhance earth system models as well as studies in agriculture, cloud development, land-atmosphere interactions and severe storm processes.

“Individual researchers would not have the resources to measure the number of variables needed in analysis of complex atmospheric processes,” said Nicki Hickmon, associate director of operations for ARM.

“But for many researchers, measuring all these variables is critical to understanding what is going on. So providing those measurements really helps to feed the science.”

Read the full feature on the Argonne website.

This is a feature story published by Argonne National Laboratory’s Communications and Public Affairs division and shared with permission.

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The ARM Climate Research Facility is a DOE Office of Science user facility. The ARM Facility is operated by nine DOE national laboratories, including Argonne National Laboratory.