Yesterday we had our last StratoClim measurement flight here in Kathmandu. Currently no follow up project with the Geophysica is planned. During the preparation phase on the apron it was raining, matching the mood of seeing the Geophysica taking off for the last measurement flight.

Looking for protection against the rain under the wing of Geophysica, before the last measurement flight.

Problems with the exact coordinates of the planned flight track appeared and communication with the airport tower led to a take-off delay of 1,5h with running instruments. Even though it was not really warm outside, some instruments running so long on the ground had problems with overheating.

Altogether, the campaign was a huge success with 8 measurement flights in the Asian monsoon. After the cancelled test campaign in Kiruna, Sweden due to political issues and the replacement phase 1 campaign in Kalamata, Greece with flooding issues and challenging conditions in the hangar, the well organized and smoothly running campaign here in Kathmandu is a pleasant surprise. A meeting to present measurement results is planned for November in Rome.

Personally, I experienced this campaign as easy going, especially compared to the last campaign in Kalamata. The instrument I am working with operated throughout all 8 measurement flights, without any complications.

As a highlight ending, a Mt. Everest sightseeing flight with Buddha Air happened this morning for everyone from StratoClim, who wanted to join for a fair price. Because we work in their hangar, the organization of the flight with Buddha Air was easy.

Mount Everest, seen from the sightseeing flight this morning. (picture by Corinna Kloss)

Since the StratoClim campaign has now finished, this is the last blog entry from me. However, another atmospheric campaign is starting soon in Shannon, Ireland with the German research aircraft HALO, which you will be informed about in this blog.

Yesterday we had a measurement flight going over India to the Bay of Bengal region. The whole flight procedure was according to schedule (i.e. the take-off was planned for 1 pm and also actually happened at 1 pm). It was a successful flight and the data look promising.

It is a fairly calm day today and the preparations on the instruments for the next flight have started.

Today at the hangar

An engine inspection at the aircraft was done during the last night so that the next measurement flight can happen tomorrow either in the morning or afternoon (which is still point of discussion).

It seems that the last possible flight day is the 10th of August. At the moment 6 out of the planned 9 measurement flights took place. Hence, in order to have 9 flights at the end of this campaign, we have to fly Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so three days in a row. This gives the scientists little time to download the data and prepare their instruments in between flights.

If a flight is planned, the day can start very early (i.e. waking up at 3 am might be necessary for some people). Breakfast at the hotel starts at 6 am and we have the choice between curry and western breakfast. The people at the hotel are extremely nice, even the decoration during breakfast is made for us (picture) and they plan a traditional Nepalese evening for us with live music.

View from the hotel and decoration at breakfast

From the hotel there are a 2-3 shuttle busses going in the morning to the hangar (between 3:45 am and 6:30 am). For our standards, the traffic is extremely chaotic and the air on the streets is very dusty and polluted. Before entering the airport to get to the hangar we show our passports.

On the bus, on the way to the hangar

At the hangar there are offices, but the scientists working with measurement instruments stay close to the aircraft and their instruments inside the hangar.

Working situation in the hangar

For flight Geophysica is rolled out 2.5 hours before take-off, yesterday that was at 5:45 am. The scientists follow, equipped with air conditioning and tools for their instruments. The aircraft is fueled, the pilot arrives, takes his seat and we wait for the tower confirmation that the Geophysica can take its position for take off. Yesterday the take-off was delayed by almost an hour and took off at 9 am. It is incredible how close we are allowed to the runway!

Geophysica take-off

For some scientists the time during flight is the only time they can explore the region and have a look at some temples around.

As soon as the Geophysica comes back, data from the instruments are downloaded. This is also the moment, when we discover whether our instruments worked during flight or whether some problem(s) appeared. Most instruments are dismounted again. Quick looks are prepared (visualization of the data) and are made visible for everyone. Then the instruments are prepared for the next flight and integrated back onto the aircraft. This preparation phase takes 1-2 days.

2 busses go back to the hotel between 3 pm and 9 pm. Yesterday evening we had our campaign party. A party that is usually organized once per campaign to celebrate the success and spend some time together away of work. Those parties are usually pretty fancy and at nice locations. Yesterday for example, we had dinner with drinks at the ‘garden of dreams’, a tourist attraction, partly reserved for us.

Garden of dreams in Kathmandu

Every day a flight planning group sits together and discusses the current and forecast meteorological situation in and around Nepal (in the Asian monsoon region). The position and development of the Asian monsoon anticyclone, incoming typhoons, temperature at different heights and enhancement of different substances are looked at.

Additionally, the planned flight track is determined by the flight clearances. We don’t have any flight permission to go over Tibet and have to apply for flight permission over India and Bangladesh each time prior to flight. This limits the flight track for some flights only to Nepal. However, prior to the campaign some possible, preliminary scientific flights have been planned (that include flight tracks over India to the Bay of Bengal) and flight clearances for those flight tracks were requested for random days (each flight clearance is permitted for three days) during the campaign.

The Geophysica tank enables a flight duration of usually around 4 hours, which limits the area that can be reached.

All those components determine which route is chosen for a scientific flight. Listening to the flight planning team is very interesting.

As an example I added the following picture from yesterday’s flight planning meeting for a flight planned for Sunday (August 6th ). The purple and especially white areas on the picture present regions with a very fast transport of air masses  from the ground to around 16.5 km height. This fast transport happens in the Asian monsoon, but also and even faster in occurring typhoons. The white area on the picture shows the air approaching Bangladesh from a typhoon near Japan and its predicted development for Sunday. The flight track that is planned is indicated with red dots and connecting blue lines, from Kathmandu to India and Bangladesh close to the typhoon air. This means that during this flight we could be able to measure the strong convection in the Asian monsoon but also the influence of the typhoon coming in.

This picture originates from the flight planning tool MSS ( showing CLaMS data.
The CLaMS model, developed at IEK-7 Forschungszentrum Jülich, shows here the
mean age of air (transit time since contact with the surface) on Sunday at 12 am
UTC time at 16.5 km altitude. (picture by Felix Ploeger).


Yesterday, the fourth flight of this campaign took place and the next one is planned for tomorrow (Friday) in the morning. Both those flights are restricted over Nepal. In Nepal we are currently pretty much in the center of the Asian monsoon anticyclone and can therefore probe the anticyclone well. Besides investigation the inside of the Asian monsoon anticyclone, the edge and outflow region are also of high interest during this campaign, however until now the edge has not been reached with the aircraft.

Yesterday after the flight we took a group picture of everyone in the StratoClim community, who is here.

StratoClim team in Nepal, Kathmandu (picture by StratoClim)

After what seemed to be a slow beginning (delay of the research aircraft arrival, delay of EMC tests and also delay of equipment shipping to the campaign site), the campaign is now running at full speed and already three successful measurement flights took place (July 27th, 29th and 31st )! During those flights measurements in the Asian monsoon anticyclone were made. In total 9 flights are planned, so there are still 6 to go. The last flight is currently scheduled for the 12th of August. Hence, every other day a research flight is planned. The next one is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Managing the rain during the preparation phase (picture by Felix Friedl-Vallon)

Preparation for the first measurement flight (picture by Thorben Beckert)

Geophysica take off for the first measurement flight (picture by Thorben Beckert)

25 instruments are implemented on the Geophysica and almost all of them worked during those flights. However, prior to take off for the first flight, the aircraft had to wait in the sun for around 1.5 hours and some instruments overheated and did not perform measurements during this flight..

Together with a few colleges I just arrived in Kathmandu and can therefore write about on-site impressions from now on..

Prior to the first measurement flight an EMC-test is scheduled to ensure e.g. that no measurement instrument on the aircraft interferes with the aircraft electronics. For this purpose the Geophysica is rolled out together with all measurement instruments, engines of the aircraft and the instruments are switched on and the electromagnetic field around the aircraft and at the cockpit control is measured. During flight and the actual EMC test, only with running engines the instruments can draw current for operation. For yesterday, this EMC test was scheduled, and the aircraft together with all instruments were ready to be tested (see picture), but the airport tower did not approve the start of the engines. Today the EMC-test was also not possible so that it is now planned to be carried out tomorrow (July 26th).

Some equipment did not reach the campaign site on time and is still missing. The earliest arrival of this equipment is estimated to be tomorrow (July 26th). Before the equipment arrives, no measurement flight can take place. This (but also the delayed EMC-test) delays the campaign phase. The official campaign ending is scheduled for August 14th, but a possible shift of this date by a few days is currently discussed.

Role out of Geophysica for the EMC test (picture by Talat Khattatov)

However, the biggest step for the startof the campaign was the arrival of the research aircraft Geophysica. Here are some spectacular pictures of the Geophysica landing in Kathmandu from July 20th at 6:13 a.m. local time:


picture by Simone Brunamonti

picture by Simone Brunamonti

Geophysica arrival at the airport in Kathmandu (picture by Simone Brunamonti)

picture by Simone Brunamonti


picture by Simone Brunamonti


The colleagues in Kathmandu found some time to explore the region

Tempel in Thamel Kathmandu (picture by Marc von Hobe)


… and the view from the hotel is also not bad

View from the hotel (picture by Marc von Hobe)

View from the hotel (picture by Marc von Hobe)

Finally after years of challenges and struggles the main campaign of StratoClim to investigate the asian monsoon has started!!

The research aircraft, M55 Geophysica, landed at the campaign site in Nepal, Kathmandu today (see picture) and is now ready to carry our atmospheric instruments into the upper troposphere and stratosphere during the asian monsoon.

M-55 Geophysica in the hangar in Kathmandu, Nepal (picture by Antonis Dragoneas)


The view from the hangar in Kathmandu (picture by Johannes Wintel)


M-55 Geophysica (picture by Talat Khattatov)


But why is the investigation of the asian monsoon so important?

The asian monsoon is seen as a major pathway for tropospheric gases into the stratosphere, bringing large air masses quickly from the ground into high altitudes. In the stratosphere, atmospheric gases have a more direct impact on the climate, as they directly interact with solar radiation. The investigation of the asian monsoon transport mechanisms is the main goal of this measurement campaign. The improved understanding of these processes in and around the asian monsoon from this campaign will contribute to global climate models, which will, as a result, give more accurate predictions of the climate development, providing important information for climate change policy making. The M55 Geophysica reaches altitudes of 20 km and is therefore suitable to bring our instruments in the area of interest.

Personally, I am not yet in Kathmandu, but will be there to give on-site information in August.


Last night Kalamata was hit by a flood and most of us were affected by it. Already yesterday and during the night we had several storms and strong rain here. We woke up from water streaming in our rooms and had to rescue ourselves one level up. Everyone is fine and we found another hotel to spend the last days in. However, the demage at the hotel is huge. Our rental cars were flushed away and clothes from our luggage are soaked in or at least smell like dirt. One dog that we saw every day going to breakfast was on a leash and and couldn’t rescue himself.

For the campaign that means that todays measurement flight was cancelled, the option for another one tomorrow is currently discussed. Everyone scheduled to leave today cannot.

One thing is for sure.. This was an event/adventure that we won’t ever forget..

Here are some impressions:

During the night, after escaping to the first floor.

During the night, after escaping to the first floor.

My room, after the water went down again.

My room, after the water went down again.

Decreasing water level.

Lower water level.

Can you spot one of our rental cars?

Can you spot one of our rental cars?


Two out of four planned measurement flights have already been made. Collected data show a lot of potential for nice atmospheric studies and analysis. One group is especially excited after they saw that during the last flight Geophysica – like predicted – really went through an ice cloud (which they study with their instrument).

Next week is the last week of the campaign here in Kalamata, Greece and although one week seems like a long time, with all of the preparation it is hard to fit two more measurement flights in. One was originally planned for today, but unfortunately one instrument showed some major technical problems yesterday night, so this morning the flight for today was spontaneously cancelled. Many of us used that decision to take a day off after 7 days of long and hard work (and although we are on a campaign, where weekends don’t exist, it’s still Saturday 😉 ), others are back in the hanger to fix/improve some components of their instrument. I use the spare time to write another blog entry.

The next flight will either take place on Monday or Tuesday.

The preparation for one of those flights already starts the day before, when all instruments are installed. For our instrument (AMICA) for example, a crane has to be ordered to lift it to the top of the aircraft.

Early in the morning of the flight day, usually around 6 until 7 a.m. scientists come to the hangar to do some last minute preparation (for example warming up the instrument, fixing the inlet, software or logger programming …).

Last minute preparation before flight. Sunrise in the back. Picture by Brian Leen

Last minute preparation before flight. Sunrise in the back. Picture by Brian Leen

At 7:30 Geophysica is pulled out of the hanger and rolled to the apron. On the apron all scientists have to wear a high-visibility-vest.

high-visibility-vests are requested on the apron. A shortage of vests can lead to collegues sharing one ;)

high-visibility-vests are requested on the apron. A shortage of vests can lead to colleagues sharing one 😉

A minute by minute schedule, considering the need of every instrument, is followed. In general: The aircraft is connected to Ground power, instruments are switched on, the pilot takes his seat, engines of the aircraft are switched on, the Ground power is disconnected and Geophysica is ready to fly (at around 9:30 a.m.).

Geophysica taking off. Picture by Brian Leen.

Geophysica taking off. Picture by Brian Leen.

One point that on paper is estimated to take 5 minutes, but really takes around half an hour is ‘pilot takes his seat’. Because Geophysica is a high altitude aircraft (up to 21 km) the pilot is dressed in something that looks more like an astronaut costume to me, rather than a normal pilot uniform. He is connected to oxygen bottles and the whole process is more complex, than just sitting down. One measurement flight takes around 4 hours and it is really exciting to see the aircraft taking off and landing,

.. which we will see again in a few days.

After the Kiruna Test campaign did not happen as planned, the main StratoClim campaign in India during the Asian Monsoon phase this year has been shifted to next year. Those news were unexpected as we visited an India training course, got medical advice for the journey and already sent one container with equipment to India, which is now slowly on its way back. As a PhD student and new to the community I still have to get used to disappointing, unexpected and sudden cancellations of campaigns/events that already have been planned in small detail.

For this year an alternative was found: Another campaign will take place in Kalamata, Greece from 22nd of August to 9th of September.

From Forschungszentrum Jülich, the container is packed with all the equipment and instruments and is now on its way to Kalamata. The last pieces were packed yesterday 11 pm.