Stratospheric “Near Space” Eclipse 2017

Name of Award

APDC Faculty Research & Scholarly Activities Grant

Date Awarded

Summer 6-1-2016


Mathematics and Physics

Project Description

Erick Agrimson, MS, Associate Professor, received a $7,500.00 Research & Scholarly Activities Grant. The lowest layer of atmosphere, called the troposphere, is the region monitored and measured daily by the weather service to provide data for weather reports. Above this region, high altitude balloons are used for scientific and meteorological research related to the study of the Earth’s stratosphere, which is a region called “near-space.” This region of the Earth’s atmosphere is under-researched. High altitude ballooning (HAB) provides researchers with a relatively cost-effective means to characterize this region of the earth’s atmosphere (rockets can reach this region but costs can exceed 100,000 dollars). This region is not accessible by plane, and satellite studies do not provide in situ measurements of this dynamic region of earth’s environment. Balloon payloads can study the temperature in the troposphere and stratospheric layers of the atmosphere. As one ascends in altitude in the troposphere, temperatures drop below -50°C. Above this lowest layer is a region called the tropopause, a boundary where the temperature begins to level off and cooling stops. The altitude of the tropopause boundary varies with the season and may range from 15km to 27km. During a launch, a HAB can achieve altitudes of more than 33km, reaching the layer above the tropopause called the stratosphere, where temperatures warm again and an effect called the “thermal wake” becomes pronounced. This phenomena has been a foci of the St. Catherine University ballooning team.

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