NASA's World Tour of the Atmosphere Reveals Surprises Along the Way

Since 2016, a team of scientists with 25 advanced instruments aboard NASA's DC-8 research aircraft has sampled over 400 different gases and a broad range of airborne particles on month-long excursions from Alaska down the Pacific to New Zealand, then over to South America and up the Atlantic to Greenland, and across the Arctic Ocean. Far from land, the atmosphere above the ocean is where to find the cleanest air on the planet — at least in theory. Over the course of three deployments, and with their fourth and final trek beginning in late April, the team has found surprising levels of pollutants above the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

Sea ice in the Arctic as seen from ATom’s DC-8 in January 2017. Credits: NASA / Róisín Commane