In the agency's most complex airborne science campaign of the year, several aircraft will take to the skies this summer to investigate how air pollution and natural emissions, when pushed high into the atmosphere by large storms, affect atmospheric composition and climate.
Beginning in August flights will originate from Houston's Ellington Field, which is operated by its Johnson Space Center, NASA reported Thursday.
The science campaign will combine the data gathered by aircraft missions with information from NASA satellites and an array of ground sites.
"In summertime across the United States, emissions from large seasonal fires, metropolitan areas and vegetation are moved upward by thunderstorms and the North American Monsoon," lead project scientist Brian Tool of the University of Colorado, Boulder, said. "When these chemicals get into the stratosphere they can affect the whole Earth. They also may influence how thunderstorms behave."
The mission should help scientist better understand how all these events interact, he said.