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SSAI’s Claire Robinson and Team Study Dropsonde Measurements using Advanced Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS)

May 19, 2022 Employee Spotlights, Instrument Engineering, Science Research & Development

 Claire Robinson, a Scientific Programmer/Analyst at SSAI and part of the Sonde Measurement of Atmospheric Layers at Langley (SMALL) Group (a subsidiary of LARGE, the Langley Aerosol Research Group), presented the latest statistics and relevant work utilizing the newly acquired Advanced Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS) Dropsonde system at the recent AVAPS Dropsondes Users Meeting.

AVAPS is an instrument designed to measure the vertical distribution of atmospheric ambient temperature, pressure, humidity, and GPS-based wind speed/wind direction using parachuted GPS dropsonde that is launched from an aircraft and descends to the surface. The data is subsequently used to generate high resolution vertical profiles for various scientific applications. Learn more about AVAPS here.

At the virtual meeting, Claire presented recent statistics and ongoing science applications work from three field campaigns on which the new AVAPS Dropsonde system has been deployed, including: the Convective Processes Experiment – Aerosols & Winds (CPEX-AW) campaign, the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS), and the Aerosol Cloud meTeorology Interactions oVer the western ATlantic Experiment (ACTIVATE).

The SMALL team has made great strides not only deploying and supporting the AVAPS dropsonde system in the field, but collaborating with various research groups and universities to utilize the atmospheric profiles.


Among the statistics presented at the User Meeting were figures prepared by SSAI teammate Taylor Shingler, a primary AVAPS operator for the ACTIVATE campaign, that nicely demonstrate the frequency of dropsondes that have been dropped for the ACTIVATE campaign.

Taylor also highlighted when and where the most sondes have been dropped for use in future campaign planning.

Michael Shook (another SSAI teammate and data analyst for the SMALL team and LARGE team as well as a primary meteorologist for the ACTIVATE campaign) is utilizing the dropsonde data to calculate Cold Air Outbreak Indices (CAOI), a common technique utilized in climate model analysis to determine if observed conditions fall into the definition of a cold air outbreak.

SMALL dropsonde data will be a key measurement for the upcoming Convective Processes Experiment - Cabo Verde (CPEX-CV) deployment to Cabo Verde this summer, when data products will be used for real-time operational model access through the Global Telecommunication System (GTS).


Claire Robinson on a previous field campaign preparing to deploy a dropsonde on board an aircraft. Photo credit: NASA/Katie Jepson

The AVAPS Dropsondes Users Meeting is a yearly hybrid workshop/meeting put on by NCAR that allows various users of the AVAPS system to present their data/statistics utilizing the dropsonde system. New advancements in the dropsonde field are also presented, from improving on current dropsonde data processing programs to new sonde types.

Thanks for representing the SMALL group and SSAI, Claire! Great work!