Collection of papers on ATOMIC campaign represents breakthrough in execution of major field programs and new approach to data archiving

The NOAA P-3 aircraft flies over the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown during ATOMIC

In the early winter of 2020, NOAA partnered with several universities and other programs to lead the Atlantic Tradewind Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC), the U.S. complement to the European field campaign EUREC4A. This one-and-a-half month field study in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean east of Barbados investigated cloud and air-sea interaction processes with the goal of advancing understanding and prediction of U.S. weather and climate. The collaborative effort to characterize ocean and atmospheric properties involved a unique combination of ships, piloted and remotely controlled aircraft, and remotely controlled ocean vehicles.

Since the campaign’s end, researchers have been processing and analyzing the extensive collection of data they gathered. Seven papers focusing on the ATOMIC field campaign will appear in a Special Issue of the journal Earth System Science Data. NOAA (including the Physical Sciences Lab and Chemical Sciences Lab in Boulder, CO) and university partners at CIRA and CIRES contributed to six of the seven papers, which include Pincus et al. for the NOAA P-3 aircraft, Quinn et al., for the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown, Stevens et al. for the EUREC4A overview, Albright et al. for calculations of solar and infrared radiative flux profiles, George et al. for dropsonde analysis, and de Boer et al. for UAS profiling.

This collection of papers represents a breakthrough in the execution of major field programs, in which a huge number of observations collected over more than a month from dozens of platforms, hundreds of instruments, and thousands of sensor launches have been compiled, processed, and output in high-level format. The data files are in fully ‘self-describing’ format with uniformity in variable names, formatting, and structure, and they reside in publically-available archives. This new approach to archiving data from large cooperative field programs will make these data much more accessible and useful to analysts, research modelers, and operational centers. Scientists who want to combine observations from various platforms will not have to spend time decoding and rationalizing a myriad of readme files or writing complicated input readers.

Better understanding of air–sea interactions in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean will improve how these processes are represented in NOAA’s model forecast systems and improve the numerical guidance used to predict weather and climate extremes.