Project Overview

Atmospheric Instrumentation Suite (AIS)

Expanding ocean-atmosphere measurements with a new facility

Gray Structure

Atmospheric Instrumentation Suite (AIS) Project

Climate change is expected to have far reaching implications across the globe, from the alarming and accelerating warming of the Arctic ¹, and consequent seasonal reduction in sea ice extent, to significant changes occurring in Asian Monsoon precipitation ² ³ ⁴. International efforts to study the Arctic are being undertaken, such as the one-year MOSAiC ⁵ drifting observatory project, but repeated, long-term observations in the polar regions will be vital to understanding the mechanisms and rate of ongoing change, and in reducing uncertainty in global climate model predictions. Consistent, standardized measurement of a wide range of atmospheric data and temporal phenomena over the Arctic Ocean is significantly constrained and currently represents a crucial data gap for climate models.

The collaboration between Global Oceans and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) seeks to address these atmospheric data gaps by expanding observation capacity with a new atmospheric observation facility called the Atmospheric Instrumentation Suite, or AIS. The AIS facility will be owned and operated as an independent, nongovernmental, scientific asset for the global science community.

This new initiative will enable more rapid and frequent deployment of facilities for atmospheric measurements worldwide, with a particular focus on observations in the Arctic Ocean for improving global climate modeling, and observations in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific to support improved modeling of Asian Monsoon systems (see the Project Highlight on the Asian Monsoon Modeling Project here).

The AIS project will design, build, and operate a four-module suite of globally certified, ship-borne atmospheric instrument systems containing over 40 instruments, including a workshop module, that will generate measurements shown in Table 1. Specific instrument configurations will be adapted for each set of mission experiments and observations based on the science drivers. 

The AIS will also provide internal space to host and support investigator-specific instrumentation, and investigators will be encouraged to contribute unique instruments for each deployment.


Atmospheric Instrumentation Suite (AIS) Facility

Core Measurement Parameters:

  • Near-surface Meteorology

  • Radiation

  • Surface Temperature

  • Cloud Base Height/Presence

  • Cloud Liquid Water & Water Vapor

  • Precipitation

  • Thermodynamic Profiles

  • Wind Profiling

  • Cloud Profiling & Microphysics

  • Aerosol Properties

  • Gas Concentration

  • Water Source Attribution

Context of New Observational Capacity

In the context of current instrument capacity, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility (ARM) currently offers three mobile observatories, only one of which is suited for ocean deployment. Through the DOE program these assets are scheduled years in advance, often for long campaigns, which limits the flexibility and responsiveness of their use.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also operates research platforms supporting a wide variety of research, including atmospheric observations, but is similarly limited in facility availability and timing of funding. Current capacity for atmospheric measurements over coastal and open ocean regions on research vessels is therefore constrained by the limited number and availability of existing mobile observatory assets as well as by government funding to deploy those assets.

What the AIS will Achieve

The Global Oceans-Argonne AIS venture will achieve the following objectives:

  • Establish a nonprofit, nongovernmental ownership and management program structure that ensures continuing, flexible, cost effective access to the AIS by the international scientific community for climate research.

  • Provide a highly-collaborative, accessible, state-of-the-art observation capacity to the scientific community, and support proposals for ship-borne atmospheric observations over the world’s oceans where the need for data is greatest.

  • Build on existing scientific community expertise on the design and operational history of atmospheric observation facilities, upgraded with state-of-the-art instruments.

  • Manage the AIS program to ensure scientific integrity, highest quality data, impactful campaign participation, and open access.

  • Leverage capacity through Global Oceans to readily mobilize expedition vessels worldwide, including icebreaking vessels for polar observations, for hosting AIS deployments with a strategy for chartering commercial sector vessels configured for scientific research.

AIS Facility Funding and Ownership Structure

Program budgets for a one-year facility build schedule, and funding to support an initial four-year operational ramp-up of the program are completed, and funding is being sought from private non-governmental partners, primarily from major philanthropic foundations and corporate partnerships.

Funding for ongoing deployment and field operation of the AIS system on research expeditions, and for larger-scale collaborative projects, will utilize a hybrid funding model including from both governmental agencies and private-sector philanthropic and corporate funding sources. Science funding for Principal Investigator-driven research is anticipated from traditional governmental and other funding sources brought to each project by participating scientists.

Global Oceans and Argonne National Laboratory will manage all aspects of the project and technical operations. One strategy for facility ownership through a nonprofit independent trust is being explored as a way to facilitate scheduling flexibility and routine international scientific access.

The project team has received proposals for the design and manufacture of globally certified facility modules designed for AIS instruments, for shipboard installation and operation; established technical instrument specifications and instrument suppliers; established data processing, data management, and open access strategies; and has developed a detailed facility and program budget and project proposal.

The core AIS project team at Argonne working with Global Oceans includes meteorologists Nick Hickmon, Adam Theisen, and Michael Ritsche.

An initial AIS Science Advisory Council has been established and we welcome international scientists, especially including postdoctoral researchers and early career scientists to join the Council and share their ideas, expertise, and research interests.


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  2. Kripalani, R. H., et al. "Indian monsoon variability in a global warming scenario." Natural hazards 29.2 (2003): 189-206.

  3. Vinnarasi, R., and C. T. Dhanya. "Changing characteristics of extreme wet and dry spells of Indian monsoon rainfall." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 121.5 (2016): 2146-2160.

  4. Roxy M. K., Panini Dasgupta, Michael J. McPhaden, Tamaki Suematsu, Chidong Zhang and Daehyun Kim, 2019, Twofold expansion of the Indo-Pacific warm pool warps the MJO lifecycle, Nature, 575, 647–651. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1764-4

  5. Dethloff, Klaus, Markus Rex, and Matthew Shupe. "Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC)." EGUGA (2016): EPSC2016-3064

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