The first research flight (RF01) of the ARISTO 2016 campaign targeted ongoing forest fire east of Denver. Roughly, the RF's can be divided to two categories: those targeting of clear air objectives (for gas and aerosol instrumentation) and those targeting clouds (for cloud instrumentation). Though no clouds were targeted on this flight, for us the flight provided a more gentle test for the instrument - just to see how'd the instrument survive vibrations and how'd the instrument software would handle several hours of continuous sampling. For me it was the first ever flight onboard C-130 and I was worried (maybe more than for the instrument), how I'd survive the vibrations. Just in case, before take-off I swiped a sick back between my instrument lab book.
The skies were partly covered with clouds before the take-off but no major high level cirrus was seen that would have jeopardized the clear air objectives. The lover level clouds were on the reach of the C-130 but we ended up flying below them.
The actual forest fire (imaged by Pavel Romashkin, the flight scientist during RF01) at the Beaver Creek was reached half an hour after the take-off, though we sampled the plume aerosol all the way from Broomfield to the forest fire site. Though the PHIPS instrument is designed to measure clouds particles it is sensitive enough to detect also coarse-mode aerosol particles - certainly a feature that I will be investigating more in the future. But today I detected some mineral dust grains, some soot material, airborne plant seeds and some levitating grass - all at 10 000 feet.
An example of a forest fire induced particle measured at 10 000 feet with the PHIPS instrument. What looks like a floating grass strip is a typical particle related to forest fires. Similar particles were also observed over Brazil during biomass burning season in 2014. The particle is imaged at two angles to learn more about the particle shape.