HIPPO Quick Facts

Jan 29, 2009 - by Staff


News Release - 2011

Multimedia Gallery - 2011

Fact Sheet




The most extensive airborne global sampling of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to date, from the Arctic to the Antarctic.



The data collected will help scientists quantify the natural and human-generated sources of greenhouse gases and track where the gases are absorbed. Findings will lead to improved predictions about climate change and help policy makers determine how to minimize future levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.



Starting on January 8, 2009, scientists are undertaking five missions over three years, each lasting about 20 days:

  • 8 January-30 January, 2009
  • 31 October-22 November, 2009
  • 24 March-16 April, 2010
  • 14 June-11 July, 2011
  • 9 August-9 September, 2011

The five missions are scheduled at different times of the year, resulting in a range of seasonal snapshots of concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Related visuals

The HIPPO missions use a specially equipped Gulfstream V jet aircraft, known as HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research). 

The research jet is owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The aircraft, also called the NSF/NCAR G-V, joined the NCAR research fleet in March 2005.

  • HIAPER’s range is 7,000 miles.
  • Altitudes flown during the HIPPO missions range from 500 to 47,000 feet.
  • Specialized instruments for measuring atmospheric gases are mounted in pods under the wings, on the mainframe of the aircraft, and inside the cabin.



HIAPER flies out of Boulder, Colorado, to the Arctic and across the Pacific Ocean to Antarctica via:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Kona, Hawaii
  • Pago Pago, American Samoa
  • Roartonga, Cook Islands
  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Easter Island
  • Nadi, Fiji
  • Papeete, Tahiti
  • Saipan
  • Midway Island
  • Christchurch, new Zealand
  • Hobart, Australia
  • Darwin, Australia
Miles flown
  • First mission: 27,760 miles/44,700 kilometers
  • Second mission: 28,520 miles/45,900 km
  • Third mission: 30,200 miles/48,600 km
  • Fourth mission: 33,100 miles/53,250 km
  • Fifth mission: 30,000 miles/48,000 km

Total: 149,580 miles/240,450 km

What's unique


This is the first time scientists have attempted to systematically map the global distribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and particles in the atmosphere.


Principal investigator:

  • Steven Wofsy (Harvard University)

Co-Principal investigators:

  • Britton Stephens (NCAR)
  • Ralph Keeling (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)
  • James Elkins (NOAA)
  • Elliot Atlas (University of Miami)
  • Mark Zondlo (Princeton University)

Also aboard HIAPER

  • NCAR pilot and co-pilot
  • Scientists and technicians operating research instruments and conducting measurements


The National Science Foundation and NOAA are funding HIPPO.

NSF has spent approximately $4.5 million to support the HIPPO project to date. Additional support for several of the important experiments on the HIAPER aircraft comes from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory.

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