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Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility

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The Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility: Research, Operation and Coordination  (SRI International)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

Just north of the Arctic Circle and 100 kilometers inland from the west coast of Greenland lies a research facility dedicated to studying the polar upper atmosphere. For historical reasons, this research station in Kangerlussuaq, GreenlandĀ is known around the world as the Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility. The facility is operated by SRI International in Menlo Park, California, under the auspices of NSF and in cooperation with Denmark's Meteorological Institute. The facility has been operating since 1983 and continues to be in high demand by the scientific community.

This facility is host to more than 20 instruments, the majority of which provide unique and complementary information about the arctic upper atmosphere. Together these instruments advance our knowledge of upper atmospheric physics and determine how thin neutral gas interacts with the charged space plasma environment. The suite of instrumentation supports many disciplines of research, from plate tectonics to auroral physics and space weather. The facility instrumentation covers the electromagnetic spectrum and the data results span the spectrum of polar research. The practical impacts of research at Sondrestrom include better understanding of climate change and the effect of space weather on communications and navigation systems.

The centerpiece instrument of the facility is an L-band incoherent scatter (IS) radar with a 32-meter fully steerable antenna. The IS radar technique is a powerful tool capable of measuring range-resolved ionospheric and atmospheric parameters simultaneously from the ground to the outer reaches of our atmosphere. Use of a steerable antenna allows spatial coverage in both latitude and longitude.

Education & Outreach

Education and outreach efforts at the Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility have reached students, educators, and the general public via the Web, a variety of broadcast programs, on-site events, and high-profile publications. The Sondrestrom facility was also featured in the IMAX movie SOLARMAX.

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  • Sondrestrom radar facility
Craig J. Heinselman