Published January 9, 2009 08:48 AM

Harvard’s ‘Hippo’ Jet Heads to Pole to Test CO2 Level

By Alex Morales

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard University is flying a specially equipped jet between the North Pole and South Pole to test the atmosphere for variations in global-warming gases, aiming to improve computer models for predicting climate change.

A modified Gulfstream V took off today from Colorado bound for the Arctic as part of a three-year mission dubbed Hippo, said David Hosansky, a spokesman for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a collaborator in the Harvard-led project based in Boulder, Colorado. The plane will later turn south via New Zealand toward Antarctica.

The aircraft will cruise over mountains, seas, forests and cities at various altitudes to test concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases to find where they are being released and absorbed at exceptional rates. The findings will be produced in greater detail than any study to date, scientists said


“When we finish up, we’ll have a completely new picture about how greenhouse gases are entering the atmosphere and being removed from the atmosphere both by natural processes and by humans,” Steven Wofsy, professor of atmospheric and environmental science at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard said in a video posted on the National Science Foundation Web site.

The United Nations said in 2007 that warmer temperatures globally are caused largely by man-made CO2 and other gases that hold on to the sun’s energy in the atmosphere. Scientists are trying to better understand where the gases originate and how well oceans and forests absorb them.

Current computer models for predicting the earth’s future climate have been questioned by some climatologists for how they handle little-understood heat transfers such as those done by low- level clouds over oceans.

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