Remote Atmosphere Composition

Our understanding of the atmospheric composition of the most remote regions of the world has been limited by a lack of observations - until now. Current Project: NASA ATom Project

Atmospheric Tomography 

is a NASA-funded multi-year program (2015-2020) to measure the chemical composition of the atmosphere of the most remote regions of the world. The ATom flights include sampling from the surface to the tropopause, from the (almost) north pole to the (almost) south pole through the Pacific and Atlantic across four seasons. Róisín was part of the Harvard QCLS team that measured carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide and work is ongoing to work up that data. 


Recent Publications

Our paper on nitrous oxide observations during ATom is out in ACP! Yenny Gonzalez Ramos lead the paper with contributions from Luke Schiferl and Róisín Commane as corresponding author. Yenny is now a researcher at the Izana Atmospheric Research Observatory in Tenerife and she wrote a great summary of the paper in English and Spanish

Gonzalez, Y., Commane, R., Manninen, E., Daube, B. C., Schiferl, L. D., McManus, J. B., McKain, K., Hintsa, E. J., Elkins, J. W., Montzka, S. A., Sweeney, C., Moore, F., Jimenez, J. L., Campuzano Jost, P., Ryerson, T. B., Bourgeois, I., Peischl, J., Thompson, C. R., Ray, E., Wennberg, P. O., Crounse, J., Kim, M., Allen, H. M., Newman, P. A., Stephens, B. B., Apel, E. C., Hornbrook, R. S., Nault, B. A., Morgan, E., and Wofsy, S. C.: Impact of stratospheric air and surface emissions on tropospheric nitrous oxide during ATom, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 11113–11132,, 2021. link


Matt's paper was published in Science in December 2021! It uses ATom observations coupled with other aircraft observations to examine the air-sea flux of carbon dioxide over the southern ocean 

Long, M. C., Stephens, B. B., McKain, K., Sweeney, C., Keeling, R. F., Kort, E. A., Morgan, E. J., Bent, J. D., Chandra, N., Chevallier, F., Commane, R., Daube, B. C., Krummel, P. B., Loh, Z., Luijkx, I. T., Munro, D., Patra, P., Peters, W., Ramonet, M., Rödenbeck, C., Stavert, A., Tans, P., and Wofsy, S. C.: Strong Southern Ocean carbon uptake evident in airborne observations, Science, 374, 1275–1280,, 2021. link

ATom Publications using QCLS data


Recent Presentations

Nitrous Oxide observations: Commane et al., AMS 2021 Invited Presentation


Commane at AMS 2021: N2O during ATom

Carbon Monoxide observations: Commane et al., AMS 2020

Assessing the Impact of African Emissions on Tropical Atmospheric Composition


Published Data from ATom

  • Wofsy et al., 2021 ATom: Merged Atmospheric Chemistry, Trace Gases, and Aerosols, Version 2. ORNL DAAC, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.
  • Commane, R., J.W. Budney, Y. Gonzalez Ramos, M. Sargent, S.C. Wofsy, and B.C. Daube. 2020. ATom: Measurements from the Quantum Cascade Laser System (QCLS). ORNL DAAC, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.
  • Commane, R., J.W. Budney, Y. Gonzalez Ramos, M. Sargent, S.C. Wofsy, and B.C. Daube. 2021. ATom: Measurements from the Quantum Cascade Laser System (QCLS), Version 2. ORNL DAAC, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.


NASA DC8 in Fiji

Flight Overview

We follow similar flight tracks each time (unless re-routing for weather or runway issues). We travel anti-clockwise in order to make use of the tailwinds on the long flight from New Zealand to Chile. 

Media Relations 

ATom1      Blog PostsVideos

ATom2      Blog Posts, Videos, Media

ATom3      Blog PostsMedia


02/2017: NPR Radio (Morning Edition)

02/2017: WCAI (NPR Radio on Cape Cod and Islands)

02/2017: NASA produced video updates for ATom-2

08/2016: NASA Earth Blog Posts

08/2016: NASA produced video updates for ATom-1 on NASA Goddard YouTube Channel. Complete list of videos listed here

ATom1 Blog Posts:

08/02/2016:                      Departing for Cooler Climates

08/19/2016:                      Going back in Time

08/26/2016:                      Is there any such thing as remote clean air?

08/29/2016:                      Challenging Back Half

08/30/2016:                      Lessons learne