Eddy Covariance flux measurements with a weight-shift microlight aircraft
1Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
2Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Beijing, China
3National Ecological Observatory Network, Boulder, CO, USA
4German Meteorological Service, Richard-Aßmann-Observatory, Lindenberg, Germany
5University of Bayreuth, Department of Micrometeorology, Bayreuth, Germany
Abstract. The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and quality of Eddy-Covariance flux measurements from a weight-shift microlight aircraft (WSMA). Firstly we investigate the precision of the wind measurement (σu,v≤ 0.09 m s−1, σw = 0.04 m s−1), the lynchpin of flux calculations from aircraft. From here the smallest resolvable changes in friction velocity (0.02 m s−1), and sensible- (5 W m−2) and latent (3 W m−2) heat flux are estimated. Secondly a seven-day flight campaign was performed near Lindenberg (Germany). Here we compare measurements of wind, temperature, humidity and respective fluxes between a tall tower and the WSMA. The maximum likelihood functional relationship (MLFR) between tower and WSMA measurements considers the random error in the data, and shows very good agreement of the scalar averages. The MLFRs for standard deviations (SDs, 2–34%) and fluxes (17–21%) indicate higher estimates of the airborne measurements compared to the tower. Considering the 99.5% confidence intervals the observed differences are not significant, with exception of the temperature SD. The comparison with a large-aperture scintillometer reveals lower sensible heat flux estimates at both, tower (−40–−25%) and WSMA (−25–0%). We relate the observed differences to (i) inconsistencies in the temperature and wind measurement at the tower and (ii) the measurement platforms differing abilities to capture contributions from non-propagating eddies. These findings encourage the use of WSMA as a low price and highly versatile flux measurement platform.