Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Observing campaign to provide new understanding of how high-altitude aerosols affect the climate

Stratospheric aerosols are tiny particles high in the atmosphere that play a role in Earth’s climate by reflecting solar radiation, leading to a slight cooling. They also facilitate chemical reactions that reduce stratospheric ozone, which protects life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet solar radiation. Improved understanding of the processes that regulate the size, number, and distribution of stratospheric aerosols and their impacts on climate is essential to informing policy considerations around ozone-depleting substances, emissions into the stratosphere from rockets and aircraft, and proposed methods of solar radiation management that involve injecting aerosols or aerosol-forming gases into the stratosphere to limit human-caused climate change. 

The NOAA SABRE (Stratospheric Aerosol processes, Budget and Radiative Effects) project is an extended airborne measurement program to collect the most detailed observations to date of gases and aerosols in the stratosphere. SABRE is funded by NOAA Earth's Radiation Budget Initiative, with support from NASA, particularly through the use of a NASA WB-57F high-altitude research aircraft. The initial project phase includes four deployments to targeted regions throughout the globe over the span of a few years. Successful campaigns were conducted in 2022 from NASA JSC Ellington Field in Houston, TX, for initial test flights, and in 2023 from Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, AK, for high-latitude winter sampling. Upcoming deployments are planned to study the tropics and Southern Hemisphere. SABRE measurements are primarily made by NOAA, with NASA and several university groups providing additional key observations that are not within NOAA’s current capabilities. SABRE data will enable more accurate quantification of the climate and chemistry impacts from variations in stratospheric aerosols and gases in the present-day atmosphere and provide a foundation for improving global modeling of stratospheric aerosols in order to predict aerosol effects on the climate under future climate change scenarios.