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A unique capability

RV Investigator provides Australia with an impressive capability to conduct atmospheric research across our vast marine estate.

The vessel is equipped with two dedicated atmospheric laboratories as well as a suite of instruments that continuously collect atmospheric data while underway. On board equipment ranges from a new generation of weather radar that can gather data 20 km over the ocean in a 150 km radius from the vessel, through to instruments measuring sunlight, aerosols, cloud condensation nuclei, and other components of the atmosphere.

RV Investigator's unique capability was recognised in 2018 by the World Meteorological Organisation when the vessel was accepted as the first Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Regional Mobile Station.

GAW is a long-term global program that provides reliable scientific data and information on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, its natural and anthropogenic change, and helps to improve the understanding of interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere.

Measurements we make

RV Investigator is equipped with two dedicated atmospheric laboratories and an air sampling system (including sampling mast and pump) that continuously measuring while underway– the Aerosol Laboratory and the Air Chemistry Laboratory. Both laboratories have a direct atmospheric air feed.

This capability allows comprehensive sets of measurements to be collected in three of the GAW focal areas (equivalent to a GAW global station): aerosols, reactive gases and greenhouse gases.

Instrumentation on board also allows for other continual measurements including radon, weather and precipitation data, and other core meteorological data.

Key equipment and capabilities

Atmospheric sampling system

The air sampling system has an air intake attached to the foremast. Air is collected and drawn down into the Aerosol Laboratory, which is directly below the foremast. The air samples then travel onto the Air Chemistry Laboratory. The main air sampling inlet is specifically designed for laminar flow and has a directional head to face into the wind as much as possible.
The sampling system provides common vacuum, dry air supply and real-time flow control, as well as continuous monitoring of temperature, relative humidity and pressure.

Atmospheric nephelometer

Provides continuous measurement of the aerosol light scattering – an important property for the climate's radiative balance.


Used to continuously measure aerosol absorption and black carbon loading – also an important property for the climate's radiative balance.

Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) counter

Used to measure the number of particles that are able to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and form water droplets.

Condensation particle counters

A suite of condensation particle counters measure the total concentration of particles sized as small as 2.5nm.

Mobility particle size spectrometer (MPSS)

The MPSS measures the size distribution of particles in the range 10-800nm via the electrical mobility technique.

Greenhouse gas spectrometers

A pair of spectrometers measure and analyse atmospheric trace gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and water vapour.

Ozone analyzers

Instruments to measure atmospheric ozone levels near the earth’s surface.

Radon detector

Provides reliable and accurate measurements of atmospheric radon concentrations – a signature of continental air.

Weather research radar

The vessel has a 1.75 tonne C-band Doppler weather research radar that sends and receives 800 microwave pulses per second. It collects information about the number, size, shape and movement of rain, hail, ice and snow.

Other meteorological instrumentation 

Other measurements available on RV Investigator include wind speed and direction, air temperature and humidity, rainfall, radiation and atmospheric pressure:

  • RM Young 05106 propeller anemometer (propeller and vane type wind sensors)
  • Gill Ultrasonic Wind Observer II ultrasonic anemometer (ultrasonic wind sensor)
  • RM Young 50203 siphoning rain gauges
  • Licor LI-190 PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) sensors
  • Eppley Precision Infrared Radiometers
  • Eppley Precision Spectral Pyranometers (ultraviolet radiation)
  • Vaisala PTB330 Digital Barometers (atmospheric pressure).

Atmospheric research at sea 

RV Investigator is the first Australian research vessel with dedicated aerosol laboratories to analyse the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere.

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