Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility US Department of Energy



SAIL Aerosol Vertical Profiles

1 September 2022 - 15 June 2023

Lead Scientist: Allison Aiken

Observatory: amf

Aerosols are central to understanding the water cycle within mountainous regions, but a complete understanding of this role cannot be provided without vertically resolved observations, particularly for aerosol-cloud interactions since we need to know the aerosol and meteorology near cloud bases. The goal of this study is to perform tethered balloon system (TBS) measurements during different seasons to elucidate process-level understanding of the aerosols and associated meteorological conditions within complex mountainous terrain during the U.S. DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL) campaign in the East River Watershed of the Upper Colorado River in southwestern Colorado. The specific aims are directed at answering two key aerosol process science objectives in the SAIL science plan: 1) Establish aerosol regimes, the processes controlling the life cycle of aerosols in those regimes, and quantify the impacts of aerosols in those regimes on the atmospheric and surface radiative budget; 2) Quantify the sensitivity of cloud phase and precipitation to cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and ice-nucleating particle (INP) concentrations. Five TBS deployments with four flights a day are requested during fall 2022 to spring 2023. Vertically resolved observations of aerosol concentration, size, and chemical properties will be combined with meteorology and cloud conditions to understand what aerosol processes are dominant during different atmospheric conditions and seasonal events. Our measurements will provide insights into which types of aerosol particles are contributing to CCN and ice-nucleating particles (INP) impacting snow and precipitation events, new particle formation (NPF), and aerosol growth events. Imaging flights will be included to relate aerosols in the column to the surface cover and vegetation state during each deployment. Deployment during different seasons during the campaign will allow us to probe different atmospheric conditions and aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions to understand the seasonality of their impact to mountain hydrology. The collocation with longstanding collaborative resources in the region, including the ongoing surface and subsurface hydrologic observations from the DOE’s Watershed Function Science Focus Area (SFA), will provide a unique set of atmospheric observations that are complemented by existing land-surface and subsurface (e.g., groundwater) observations.

Additional Information


Paul DeMott (Co-PI)

Dan Feldman (Co-PI)

Nicholas Bouskill

John Christensen

Jessie Creamean

Wenming Dong

Jiwen Fan

Jim Smith


  • Parent Campaign
  • Sibling Campaign