The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will begin flights over Costa Rica July 16 as part of a $12 million project to investigate how tropical storms influence global warming, according to a NASA statement.
The project will involve about 400 scientists, students and support staff operating three NASA aircraft, seven satellites and other instruments.
Heat-driven storms that form above warm summer waters of the Pacific Ocean in Central and South America will be put under the mission’s microscope.
“This campaign is an unprecedented opportunity to investigate a largely unexplored region of the atmosphere,” said Michael J. Kurylo, a program scientist at NASA headquarters.
Working from the Juan Santamaría International Airport northwest of San José and from another airport in Panama, the team will study gas and particles that flow out of the top of storm systems that form over warm tropical ocean waters and pump air more than 40,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, where it can influence the composition of the stratosphere, home of Earth’s deteriorating ozone layer, according to NASA.
The mission, which will run until Aug. 8, will also study high-altitude icy clouds to better understand how Earth might react to a warming climate.
Eight NASA missions have been launched in Costa Rica since 2001, including a similar mission last year that looked at the effect of hurricanes on global warming. In 2001, Costa Rica built a hanger at JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport to attract such U.S. research campaigns (TT, Feb 3, 2006).