by Senior Airman Zachary Perras
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/14/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Miles
north beyond Eielson rests the frigid waters of the Arctic. There,
researchers and pilots from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration patrolled the airspace Oct. 19 - Nov. 7, collecting
valuable data on the earth's atmosphere.
The mission is one of global importance due to the fact that the Arctic
feeds weather for the entire Northern Hemisphere. The information
collected is used to investigate climate change around the world.
During the span of NOAA's arctic mission, Eielson was the team's home.
The base's proximity to the Arctic meant less time flying to the area of
operations and more time with eyes on the mission.
"As a small government entity, we frequently rely on the support of
other agencies," said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Didier, NOAA WP-3D Orion pilot.
"We had every aspect of support possible all in one place here at
Eielson and we wouldn't be able to do this nearly as efficiently
NOAA's Arctic mission aimed to look into the effect of anomalous heat,
specifically in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, and its effect on the
overlying atmosphere. To do this required eight-hour missions, visibly
inspecting the area.
"There are different variables in the air mass that relate to heat
fluxes and how they have an effect on how much ice there is in the
Arctic and how quickly it forms," Didier said. "We want to investigate
the air mass over where the ice forms and see what's happening over
NOAA's P-3 aircraft is equipped with a myriad of sensors that detect
different qualities of the air, including pressure, temperature and
relative humidity. Whether flying at 20,000 feet or only 200 feet above
the ice, the aircraft collects data for the team to decipher.
NOAA's research has shown there is less ice at this time of year than is
typical of years past because of global climate change. In previous
years, there would have been much thicker ice that's typically around
two to three years old, but that sort of ice is scarcer now.
Ultimately, the goal is the see what this does to the atmosphere of the
area, said Dr. Nick Bond, research meteorologist with the University of
"There's a certain thrill of discovery here because we're doing work
that hasn't been done before and we're taking measurements that haven't
been taken before," he said.
Every part of the research provides a valuable and interesting
perspective because it shows a more complete picture of the regional
Lt. Col. Andrew Lipina, 354th Fighter Wing Command Post and Plans and
Programming chief, said Eielson was excited to support such a unique
mission given the national interest in the Arctic.
"The recent release of the national strategy for the Arctic spurred
multiple government agencies to research changes to the Arctic
environment," Lipina said. "Eielson provided the optimal base of
operation for this type of research. NOAA's Arctic flux missions staged
from here proved invaluable to understanding the changes in the region."