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PACDEX Image 1
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PACDEX (Image 1)

July 30, 2010
This illustration shows a hypothetical plume and possible series of flight patterns during PACDEX (Pacific Dust Experiment), a field project launched in April 2007 to study plumes of airborne dust and pollutants that originate in Asia and journey to North America.

The PACDEX team deployed the NSF HIAPER, a modified Gulfstream-V aircraft operated and maintained by NCAR. The plane has a range of about 6,000 miles and can cruise from just a few hundred feet above the Earth's surface to over 50,000 feet. These features enabled scientists to study the plumes across thousands of miles and at different levels of the atmosphere.

When a major plume of dust and pollutants begins blowing off Asia, the G-V would fly from Boulder to Anchorage, where it would refuel, then fly on to Yokota Air Base, Japan. It would then conduct a series of flights for about a week in and around the plume as the plume moves over the ocean to North America. The plumes are among the largest such events on Earth and are so great in scope, that scientists believe they might affect clouds and weather across thousands of miles, while interacting with the sun's radiation and playing a role in global climate.

The project was led by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with funding provided primarily by the National Science Foundation.