Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility US Department of Energy


1 October 2021 - 30 September 2022

Lead Scientist: Gijs de Boer

Observatory: amf

Improved comprehension of the physical processes governing convective cloud formation and lifecycle are of critical importance for understanding and predicting future climate states. The influence of these clouds on the planetary energy budget, including on precipitation, is significant. Things are particularly complex in coastal regimes, where gradients in aerosol particle properties, localized circulations such as sea breezes, and large population centers are found. To date, numerical models struggle to accurately represent these critical clouds and are therefore challenged to provide a realistic view on the planetary energy budget. Through the proposed research, we aim to deploy two unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) equipped with a variety of instruments alongside sensors deployed by the US Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program for the TRACER (Tracking Aerosol Convection Interactions Experiment) field campaign. The two UAS platforms to be deployed consist of one airplane and one copter system, with the copter collecting frequent vertical profiles of thermodynamic and kinematic variables such as temperature, pressure, wind and humidity. At the same time, the airplane will capture horizontal gradients of these quantities and aerosol size distribution. These systems are proposed to be deployed south of the Houston metro area, in an area that is impacted by the Gulf of Mexico sea breeze on a daily basis. These observations will offer enhanced and complementary perspectives to those provided by the DOE ARM Mobile Facility (AMF) which is to be deployed in southeast Houston, and an ancillary site to be deployed to a more rural location west of the urban Houston area. Additionally flights will take place prior to the TRACER campaign at the ARM Southern Great Plains (SGP) site, where cross-platform comparisons will be completed to ensure measurement quality. Quality-controlled versions of the UAS data to be collected will be posted on the DOE ARM data archive after the conclusion of the campaign where they will be accessible by the research community and general public. Initial analysis of some of the data to be collected will be conducted, including efforts to understand the role of the sea breeze in governing convective development and intensity, the influence of different aerosol properties and concentrations on cloud and precipitation processes, and the development of a convective boundary layer in the morning hours and its relationship to the clouds that eventually form. The UAS perspective will offer revolutionary insight into key spatial and temporal effects that have not been evaluated previously.


Brian Argrow Phillip Chilson Troy Thornberry
Elizabeth Asher Greg McFarquhar
Steven Borenstein Elizabeth PillarLittle


  • Parent Campaign
  • Sibling Campaign


de Boer G, P Klein, B Argrow, T Thornberry, P Chilson, R Calmer, F Lappin, M Rhodes, E Pillar-Little, B Butterworth, A Segales, J Hamilton, K Britt, J Buchli, I Medina, E Asher, L Otterstatter, M Ritsch, B Puxley, A Miller, M Spencer, C Gomez-Faulk, E Smith, and S Borenstein. 2023. TRACER-Uncrewed Aircraft System (TRACER-UAS) Field Campaign Report. Ed. by Robert Stafford, ARM user facility. DOE/SC-ARM-23-028. 10.2172/1986150.

Gao R and S Ciciora. 2023. Test Flights of NOAA Ozone Photometer for Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS)/Balloon-Based Studies during TRACER (OPUS) Field Campaign Report. Ed. by Robert Stafford, ARM user facility. DOE/SC-ARM-23-020.


Dorsey K, C Ireland, R Jundt, B Mundy, and R Stafford. 2022. 2021 Annual Report. Ed. by Robert Stafford, ARM User Facility. doe-sc-arm-21-023. 10.2172/1843842.


Mei F, D Dexheimer, J Fast, M Diao, B Geerts, A Bucholtz, L Riihimaki, C Flynn, T Thornberry, T Campos, S Springston, C Kuang, J Tomlinson, and B Schmid. 2020. ARM Aerial Instrument Workshop Report. Ed. by Robert Stafford, ARM user facility. DOE/SC-ARM-20-010.

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Campaign Data Sets

IOP Participant Data Source Name Final Data
Francesca Lappin Quadcoptor Unmanned Aircraft System Order Data
Gijs de Boer general fixed wing unmanned aircraft system (uas) Order Data