On November 20, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will dedicate a long-term, climate research station on Nauru in the Central Pacific Ocean. The station is the second of three sites being developed in the Tropical Western Pacific by the Energy Department's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program. The first station has been operating on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea since October 1996. Like the Manus station, the Nauru facility will collect information needed to better understand climate change, focusing on the way the sun's energy is transmitted, absorbed and reflected in the tropics and on the role of clouds in heating and cooling the atmosphere. Attending the dedication ceremony will be Energy Department officials, scientists involved in the site installation and Nauru dignitaries.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson congratulated the ARM staff and the Nauru Department of Island Development and Industry, which are collaborating on the installation, saying, "Climate change is an important priority for the Clinton administration. DOE staff have been working hard with the people of Nauru to install this facility, and the data collected there will help refine models that predict global climate change. With enhanced understanding, nations will be able to develop appropriate policies to respond to the worldwide challenge of climate change."
Nauru was chosen for the field measurement site because, under normal conditions, it is located on the eastern edge of the Pacific "warm pool." The area consistently produces the warmest sea surface temperatures in the world and also generates many cumulus and cirrus cloud systems, which can either cool or heat the atmosphere. Data gathered on Nauru will help improve the understanding of the relationship between clouds and the sun's incoming and outgoing energy in the tropics.
The instruments installed on Nauru are housed in rugged, customized sea containers, designed to provide long-term, basic climatological observations. Each facility operates semi-autonomously and has an integrated set of instruments that measure surface radiation balance, surface meteorology, cloud properties, and limited atmospheric properties. Some data are transmitted hourly to the United States via satellite. More detailed data are collected and stored on magnetic tapes, which are periodically shipped to the ARM Experiment Center at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for processing.
ARM's Tropical Western Pacific locale spans an area roughly between 10°S and 10°N latitude and 135°E and 150°W longitude. The area is characterized by warm sea temperatures, deep and frequent atmospheric convection, high rain rates, strong coupling between the atmosphere and ocean, and substantial variability associated with El NiÔo. Nauru is the second ARM installation in the tropics. DOE would like to establish a third facility on Kiritimati Island in 2000. Each station is slated to continuously collect data for at least ten years.
The ARM Program also has large, continuously operating climate research facilities in two other important climate regimes: the North Slope of Alaska site near Barrow, Alaska, and the U.S. Southern Great Plains site in northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
The ARM research program is DOE's largest contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The ARM program focuses on: understanding the way the sun's energy is transmitted, absorbed, and released by the Earth's atmosphere; the effect of particles, such as dust, chemicals and water vapor, on these radiative processes; and the role of clouds in heating and cooling of the atmosphere. Data from the ARM program are used to improve models that predict climate change.
Additional information on the ARM program, including photos and maps from Nauru, is available on the Internet at http://www.arm.gov.
The above story is based on materials provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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